We have just begun collecting oral histories that tell the stories of Fairfax City's historically Black Community and the early days of George Mason College that grew up literally next door to that community. On this page, you will find the transcriptions of oral histories of a variety of people: early professors at George Mason College, an Eleven Oaks student, and more coming soon! Audio files are available upon request, transcriptions are available for download. Please credit the Center for Mason Legacies Black Lives Next Door Project, GMU, in any citations.
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This interview with Sheila Lewis covers her early life growing up in Fairfax County in the 1950s. The interview included her experience of attending school during segregation at the all-Black elementary school Eleven Oaks, located in Fairfax City, VA. She discusses some of the teachers at the elementary school, in addition to her commute to school. She talks about her experience going to Luther Jackson, an all-Black high school in Fairfax, VA. The interview includes some of the activities and clubs that she participated in along with her further education at Howard University.
This interview focused on the life story of Robert Houston. Born into a "radical union" family, Houston was further exposed to political activism when he studied English at Syracuse University. Participating in the Black Power movement moved him deeply, and when he came to George Mason College in 1968 to teach English, he continued to advocate against racism and the Vietnam War. After administrators controversially decided not to renew Houston's contract - alongside two other outspoken professors - protests and petitions were held demanding the three teachers be re-instated. Their demands were ignored. After leaving GMC, Houston taught in Mexico before eventually winding up in Arizona. He went on to publish multiple novels and taught for many years at the University of Arizona.