Call to examine the full history of the founding of City of Falls Church and its schools

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The City of Falls Church, like every community in America, has much work to do to become a more fair and just place for all of its residents, visitors, employees, and especially for Black, Hispanic, and other minority communities. As our community begins a discussion of possible reforms regarding school curricula, monuments and names, police, housing, and more through a lens of racial equity and justice, there is an obvious place to begin: the founding of City of Falls Church itself.

We call for a new commission, including representatives from the city government, school system, students, Historical Commission, Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, Mary Riley Styles Library, and others, to examine and report on the establishment of our City and to suggest steps for weaving this history more fully into the fabric of our community, our schools, and our government.

Before we can truly begin the necessary and important work to better our institutions and community, we must look backwards to the beginning and address it head on.  A full examination of the events that transpired before, during, and after the formation of our City and its school system in the 1940s and the battles to end segregation will be challenging and will result in difficult conversations. However, that is exactly the point; for far too long those conversations have been avoided or kept to a whisper. Until we shine a light on this history, we will be saddled by it. Until we shine a light on this history, there will be those who don’t know the full extent of it and those who refuse to acknowledge it.

Despite acknowledging the important history of Tinner Hill, the City’s recently adopted Vision Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan omits any reference to the true story of the founding of the City and its schools and is misleading when it notes that early investment in the schools” was motivated by desire among City residents to improve the school system at a time when the Fairfax County schools were less developed and serving a largely rural population.”

Earlier this month, the Governor of Virginia announced that our state capitol’s statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will come down; in doing so, Governor Northam exposed the reprehensible history attached to the statue. Until our City publicly fully exposes and acknowledges its own racist history, true progress will be stifled. If we cannot be honest about the past, how can we be sincere about the present? 

We must truthfully examine and disseminate the history attached to the formation of the City of Falls Church and the battles waged by some to keep its schools segregated. Only then will we be better equipped to examine—and change—the current failures and shortcomings in our policies and behaviors. A new commission addressing this history could be among the first of many steps in making our City a more equitable and just community.