Why Black Lives Are Important Today
The traditional narrative of the Outrage on Spring Bank: Slave Resistance in Fairfax County was offered an alternative narrative focused on the lives of Spencer and Alfred, enslaved Black boys that resisted the control of slave patrollers. This retelling is necessary because the original narrative didn’t focus on the Black lives involved in the resistance but instead, on the white men who had authority over Black lives in 1840. The reason for the resistance was formulated at West Grove Plantation, changing it from a space of captivity to freedom. Belle Haven Country Club currently stands on the historical land of West Grove Plantation, creating a form of Black geography in Alexandria, Virginia. Although Spencer and Alfred were viewed as “imprudent savages” it is necessary to recognize that this language doesn’t describe who they truly are. Instead, Spencer and Alfred were boys that recognized they needed to save other Black lives from the structure of control enforced by slave patrollers, such as Stephen Jones and Francis P. Ashford. This structure is still shown today in Fairfax County as police officers use force against Black people, sometimes resulting in death, as seen with Sergeant Wesley Shifflett killing Timothy Johnson.
As the retelling of the Spring Bank resistance focused on Black geography and alternative narratives, there is still some information that needs to be recovered. The idea of Spencer and Alfred’s case being a mistrial is a possibility since there were differing accounts from the witnesses, such as the type of weapon used by the boys during the ambush. This can prompt further research on how many enslaved people were wrongfully convinced of crimes in Northern Virginia. Although Spencer and Alfred were both found guilty, Spencer was the only one executed and Alfred’s sentence was reduced to banishment out of Virginia. He was sold to a slave trader named R. Littlejohn, who was responsible to take him out of the Commonwealth. With this information known, there could be possible research done to see if Alfred continued with his life, whether as an enslaved person or eventually becoming free. The exploration of the grounds that the Belle Haven Country Club is built on is further research that can be done regarding Black geographical spaces. Currently, there isn’t any evidence of lives that inhabited the plantation, except for a stone that was over the original West house and bullets from Civil War soldiers that occupied the land. There is a possibility that there are bodies underneath the soil of the country club of the enslaved people that once occupied the land.
This research project is important because it offers the perspective of Black lives trying to combat the control of the historical police force, which is important to the current Black community that is facing police brutality. Learning more about how Balck lives in Northern Virginia and resisted the police can be inspiring to those who wanted to combat white supremacist systems of control.