Black History Month: Celebrating Arlington’s African American history

In Arlington, Virginia, lies a cultural gem created to preserve and celebrate the rich African American history in the Commonwealth.

Since the mid-90s, the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington has occupied a small space nestled in the county’s Columbia Pike neighborhood.

Inside the cultural enclave, visitors are given a chronological tour highlighting the experience and tenacity of a people on their “journey to freedom.”

“This is not about slavery. It’s about overcoming,” said Scott Taylor, president and director of the museum. “It’s an extraordinary story. It’s about bravery. It’s about triumph, and it all happened right here in Arlington.”

Taylor, who grew up in the area, acknowledges the space is smaller than most museums but recognizes that it also creates a unique opportunity.

Scott Taylor, an Arlington, Virginia, native is the president and director of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
Virginia’s first integrated public schools. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
The children were among the first to integrate Virginia’s public schools. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
Arlington’s lunch counter sit-ins. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
The museum highlights Grammy-winning singer Roberta Flack. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
A display at the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
The Freedman’s Village is a focal point of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
A replica of the Freedman’s Village show’s the layout of the temporary housing village. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)
Part of the museum is dedicated to the Black firemen who worked at Hall’s Hill Fire Station. (WTOP/Erron Franklin)

“This is a safe haven. People come here, and we can have conversations,” he said. “We talk real talk here, and we’re able to be strong in the community because we are small. We work inside these walls and outside these walls.”

At the crux of the museum’s teachings are the history of Arlington’s Freedman’s Village and its importance in the community, Black Virginians, as well as their fight for equal rights and progress.

“This is history, and the beautiful thing about history, and especially ours, is that it brings everybody together,” he said.

In the midst of telling that story, homage is paid to four time Grammy-winning singer Roberta Flack, and physician and blood preservationist Dr. Charles Drew, who both called Arlington County home.

Other exhibits touch on integration of public schools, Arlington’s lunch counter sit-ins and the Hall’s Hill community.

The museum is open on Thursdays and Saturdays, and general admission is free.

“Come in the museum, and I’ll give you a private tour,” Taylor said. “You’re going to learn some things that you’ve never read anywhere, and it’s going to be a surprise.”

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