Freedman's Village: Conclusion

The legacy of Freedman's Village and its inhabitants is one that is largly ignored in favor of a narrative that eliminates criticism of our government's past actions.  What started out as an experiment born out of necessity turned into one of the first public housing projects in our country's history.  Not only did we provide these emancipated slaves places to live but gave them work, training, and a chance at a normal life for the first time ever.  Not since then have we seen the Federal Government be more sympathetic and caring toward a discrimated and marginalized group.

However, that all quickly changed after the discontinuation of the Freedmen's Bureau.  Now not only did the local white citizens of Arlington want these people gone but the government who put them there in the first place were trying to evict them.  This, along with the ending of Reconstruction killed any chance of equality for black Americans in Arlington County.  Their journey toward equality was staggered and is still going on toady.

Freedman's Village showed what was possible when a Government spends resources to rehabilitate and train citizens who want to live a productive and independent life.  While the story of the village may have been covered up by years of false narratives, its impact on the black people of Arlington can still be felt.

By Ryan Keith

Primary sources:

Bureau, US Census. n.d. “1900 Census: Volume I. Population, Part 1.” Census.Gov. Accessed May 3, 2023.

“Alexandria Gazette 11 February 1886 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1886. February 11, 1886.

“Alexandria Gazette 5 December 1882 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1882. December 5, 1882.

“Alexandria Gazette 6 June 1882 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1882. June 6, 1882.

“Alexandria Gazette 22 September 1887 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1887. September 22, 1887.

“Norfolk Landmark 11 June 1882 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1882. June 11, 1882.

“Richmond Dispatch 11 January 1891 — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive.” 1891. Virginia Chronicle. January 11, 1891.

Secondary sources:

James, Felix. 1974. “The Decline of and Fall Freedmen’s Village in Arlington, Virginia.” Negro History Bulletin 37 (3): 247–50.

Bestebreurtje, Lindsey. 2018. “Beyond the Plantation: Freedmen, Social Experimentation, and African American Community Development in Freedman’s Village, 1863-1900.” Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, 2018.

Reidy, Joseph. 1987. “COMING FROM THE SHADOW OF THE PAST": THE TRANSITION FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM...: EBSCOhost.” THe Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, October 1987.


By Ryan Keith


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