Establishing Black Property in Fairfax

By Anne Dobberteen

Since the end of the nineteenth century, a Black community established landholding roots in Fairfax City and formed a thriving community based on familial connections and ties. Between the 1880s and 1920s, a period following the end of Reconstruction, several white men facilitated land sales that enabled Black people in Fairfax to purchase real estate on and near School Street. By the mid-twentieth century, these Black residents were buying, subdividing, renting, and maintaining private properties in this circumscribed area, thereby laying the groundwork for the creation of personal and familial wealth through homeownership, despite the racially discriminatory impositions of de jure segregation in Virginia. By the 1950s, a new neighborhood school, church, and store served as anchors of a thriving suburban Black community fifteen miles south of Washington, DC.

The interactive map below shows the general location of this community by the mid-twentieth century.

This is the first installment of several stories exploring the origins of one of Fairfax’s long-standing Black communities. As we learn more, we will provide further detail and analysis. For now, we are focused primarily on the east side of School Street and planning to conduct oral histories with descendants of families from that neighborhood. Please stay tuned.

Postcard showing INOVA hospital and East School Street, ca. 1970s

This birds-eye-view postcard from the 1970s shows the new INOVA hospital. The photo depicts key sites of the Black community life: homes on East School Street, Eleven Oaks Elementary, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, and a few homes along Chain Bridge Road.

We extend a huge thank you to Georgia Brown of the Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center (FCCHRC), Chris Barbushank at the Fairfax Public Library Virginia Room, and Clarence Page, Jr., who grew up in Fairfax. The research presented in this exhibit would not have been possible without their expertise, generosity, and time.

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