Negro Hill, a vestige of Loudoun County’s divided history and Civil War battles, is still searchable and printed on Virginia maps near Route 7 and North Sterling Boulevard.
On some maps, Negro Hill is listed in a more racist variation.
Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the process of fully researching the hill’s history, and renaming it Nokes Hill, to honor the African-American family that owned the land, and several other areas that have been developed in the Sterling area, in eastern Loudoun County.
“These were, by any stretch of the imagination, very successful people,” said Board Chair Phyllis Randall. “Instead of being celebrated, the goal of calling this piece of property what it was called was simply meant to continue to put them in their place, to tell them who they were and what they could or couldn’t do.”
Vice Chairman Koran Saines, of Sterling, recommended having the county’s Heritage Commission research the area, with the goal of renaming it for the Nokes family.
“The Nokes family has a storied history here in Loudoun County. This includes owning land on and near the hill, back in the early 1900s, and that is pretty remarkable for an African-American family to be owning so much land during that time period. They own the land where Dulles Town Center currently sits, Cascades Marketplace, and Countryside shopping center, and a few others,” Saines said.
The issue came to the board’s attention after the U.S. Board of Geographic Names got a petition to rename the land. According to Saines, the petitioner lives in Alexandria, and commutes to Loudoun County.
Saines said the petitioner suggested renaming the hill after Frederick Douglass. “Frederick Douglass was a great American, but he did not have any ties to Loudoun.”
By beginning the renaming process during Black History Month, Saines said the Board’s unanimous vote “in favor of rewriting this historical wrong,” is fitting, while Randall said it was “apropos … maybe even destined.”
Saines said Dulles International Airport is located on what was formerly a well-established black township. “The government used all their might and power to remove those landowners — the same thing happened in New York City’s Central Park.”
Other African-American families — the Edds and Ewings — also owned significant amounts of farmland in Loudoun County in the early 1900s.
Nokes Boulevard runs through Dulles Town Center in Sterling, in the area that used to be known locally as Nokesville.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Edds.
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