“February is National African American History Month, and in Northern Virginia a landmark of the early civil rights movement is closer than ever to being a public historic site that will help people for generations to come learn of the brave actions the civil rights movement is based on,” a press release by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) began this week. It announced that the Tinner Hill property on the border between the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County will soon be a historic site managed by the NVRPA.
Half the property is owned by the City and half is owned by the County, and both will soon be leasing it to NVRPA. Breaking ground on the first phase of historical interpretation is planned for this spring. Interpretive efforts will be guided by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation that has been working to educate the public about this chapter in the civil rights movement for years. “The significance of this site relates to 1915, a troubling time in America. In Northern Virginia, and in many other parts of the country, some of the worst segregation laws were being passed during this period. In the Town of Falls Church, there was an effort to pass a law that would allow African Americans to only live in certain areas. This effort would have displaced many African American families who had lived in the area since the Civil War. In response to this, Joseph Tinner, a local stone mason, Dr. E. B. Henderson, an area educator, and other civic leaders in the African American community met at Tinner’s house, in an area now called Tinner Hill, and formed an organization that grew into the first rural chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and the first chapter in Virginia. They were successful in their efforts to oppose the segregationist law,” the NVRPA statement read.
“No more sacrifice could be asked of anyone than for these people who started this branch of the NAACP, to put their lives and their livelihoods on the line to stand up for their civil rights” noted Falls Church’s Edwin B. Henderson II, the grandson of Dr. E.B. Henderson and founder of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. The Foundation has been promoting local African American history for the last 17 years.