Arlington

Joan Mulholland: Arlington's Homegrown Activist

Joan Muholland mugshot after her arrest in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. (Photo source: Joan Muholland)

By the time she was 23, Mulholland had participated in more than fifty sit-ins and protests. She was a Freedom Rider, a participant in the near riotous Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth Sit-in, and helped plan and organize the March on Washington in 1963. On a local level, she was part of the first Arlington sit-ins, which integrated lunch counters across northern Virginia, and helped to coordinate demonstrations at Glen Echo Park, Bethesda's Hiser Theater amongst other locations.

Arlington's Bravest: The Arlington County Fire Department

It's a foreign concept now but for many years, Arlington County did not have its own fire department. Instead, the county was served by a number of independent volunteer fire departments. These were organized locally, typically within neighborhoods where citizen leaders saw the need for some level of fire protection and established a resource right in their own neighborhood. (The first such VFD was established in Cherrydale in 1898.) When a fire broke out, the volunteers would leave their homes or businesses and go fight the flames.

Roberta Flack in 1971. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Arlington's Roberta Flack Gets Her Start at Mr. Henry's

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Roberta Flack started playing the piano at an early age. When she was five, her family moved to the Nauck community in Arlington and she took up the organ, lending her musical talents to Macedonia Baptist Church. At 15, she entered Howard University with a full music scholarship and, by 19, she was a college graduate seeking.

She accepted a position in a segregated school district in Farmville, North Carolina and wound up being the only music teacher for 1300 students, kindergarten through 12th grade. “I lost 40 pounds and almost had a nervous breakdown but we did some beautiful things that year.”

Flack returned to Washington and taught at Rabaut Junior High School and Brown Junior High School. In the evenings, she started performing – first at the Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights and then at Mr. Henry’s, a Capitol Hill nightclub at 6th and Pennsylvania Ave, SE, which was owned by Henry Yaffe.

Meeting the Community's Needs: Arlington’s Friendly Cab Company

In the 1940s, Jim Crow held strong in Arlington, Virginia. African-Americans encountered discrimination at segregated eating establishments, businesses and recreation facilities. Even access to medical care was divided along racial lines.

African American mothers were barred from the maternity ward at Arlington Hospital and were expected to travel to hospitals in Washington, D.C. or Alexandria to give birth. For many black Arlingtonians, getting to D.C. was difficult – especially in a medical emergency – as many could not afford cars of their own.

In 1947, three men with bright ideas and business ingenuity stepped up to fill the void.

Sit-ins Come to Arlington

Activists at drug store counter in Arlington. (Source: Washington Area Spark on Flickr.)

Shortly after 1pm on June 9, 1960 a biracial contingent of college students entered the People’s Drug Store at Lee Highway and Old Dominion Dr. in Arlington and requested service at the store’s lunch counter. Less than a mile away, a similar group sat down at the counter at the Cherrydale Drug Fair.

Both lunch counters promptly closed.

Still, the students did not move. In fact, they remained seated for hours, calmly reading books and Bibles until well after dark, in protest of the stores’ refusal to serve African American patrons at their lunch counters.

Arlington's Little Saigon

For about 10 years following the fall of Saigon in April 1975, Arlington, Virginia became a destination for Vietnamese immigrants fleeing communist rule. Then, almost as quickly as it had developed, Arlington's so called "Little Saigon" faded away. Check out the video below!


 

From Bolivia to Arlington

Inspired by the new LATINO AMERICANS film, we decided to seek out a local perspective on the Latino experience in our community. With the help of the good folks at the Arlington Historical Society, I got in touch with Luis Araya, who is a Bureau Chief in the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (public works). He immigrated to Arlington from Bolivia as a young boy in 1966, when very few Latinos lived in the county. He's worked for the county government for 40 years and he also happens to be a Director at the Historical Society. So he brings an interesting perspective on the experience of Latinos in Arlington over time. On top of all that, he's one of the most accomodating people I've ever met -- offering up not only his insights but also his family photos for our local video project.

The Changing Landscape of Arlington As Seen by An Old DC Hiking Club

It’s a casual Sunday in April 1934 and you’re looking for something to do. How about a hike in the great outdoors? Lucky for you, there’s a new hiking club in town and they are preparing for their very first hike!

Earlier that year, German immigrant and nature enthusiast Robert Shosteck approached The Washington Post to inquire if the paper was interested in creating a partnership. Shosteck offered to write multiple columns each week on various outdoor topics in exchange for The Post’s sponsorship of a new hiking club, which he called The Wanderbirds.[1]

On February 2, 1959 (l-r) Michael Jones, Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins and Lance Newman became the first black students to break the color line in Virginia's public schools. (Source: Washington Post website)

It Happened Here First: Arlington Students Integrate Virginia Schools

On February 2, 1959, Stratford Junior High School (now H-B Woodlawn High School) in Arlington was the first public school in Virginia to be integrated. That morning, four African American seventh graders – Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman, Michael Jones and Gloria Thompson – started classes at the school with over 100 Arlington County police officers in riot gear standing guard. To the great relief of the community, there was no violence or disorder (though two students were sent home for setting off a firecracker in a school bathroom)

The day had been a long time coming.

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