Black History Committee Programs
The Black History Committee was founded by the Friends in 2000 “to preserve, collect, promote, and share the history of African Americans who contributed to the emergence and development of Loudoun County, Virginia." (Above, the congregation of the John Wesley Church in Waterford, 1910.)
COLLECTING AND PRESERVING Black History
Oral History Collection
In its first year, the Black History Committee, or BHC, inaugurated its initial project to preserve and share Loudoun County’s African American history: the Oral History Project. Initially managed by member Deborah Lee and funded with a grant from the Loudoun Library Foundation, the project involved interviewing and photographing more than 50 individuals, then transcribing the interviews. The materials, digitized by the Library staff in 2013, include information on family histories, race relations, segregation and desegregation, the Civil Rights movement, and the socio-economic issues faced by African American communities in Loudoun County.
The work of first-person documentation of Loudoun County's African American experience continues today with the added dimension of video recordings.
You may access the collections through the audio kiosk at the Library.
Community History and mapping Project
For its Community History and Mapping Project, as well as BHC Records, the members have collected a large number of images of people, events, and communities, including maps. Nearly 350 images already have been processed and/or catalogued with another 80 or 90 records still be to inventoried.
Research and Publishing
The Essence of a People: Portraits of African Americans Who Made a Difference in Loudoun County, Virginia. Leesburg, Virginia: The Black History Committee, Friends of Thomas Balch Library, 2001.
The Essence of a People II: African- Americans Who Made Their Worlds Anew in Loudoun County, and Beyond. Kendra Y. Hamilton, editor. Leesburg, Virginia: The Black History Committee, Friends ofThomas Balch Library, 2002.
Loudoun County’s African American Communities: A Tour Map and Guide by Deborah A. Lee, Leesburg, Virginia: The Black History Committee, Friends of Thomas Balch Library, 2004.
These publications and others by Black History Committee members are available for purchase at the Friends Shop.
Promoting and Sharing Black History
Tours and Special Events
The Black History Committee launched a program of public bus tours of African American heritage sites in Loudoun County in November 2015. Based on the BHC publication Loudoun County's African American Communities—A Tour Map and Guide, the inaugural tour explored the shared history of Loudoun's citizens. The tour traveled historic routes and visited sites in Waterford, such as the John Wesley Church, and the Second Street School. The tour took visitors to Leesburg, Purcellville, Gleedsville, Middleburg, and Oatlands Plantation.
Black History Committee members and former members frequently give papers and presentations at museums and conferences. Watch the Calendar for news of who, what, where, and when.
The Friends' Black History Committee and its members frequently partner with other organizations and projects to advance community and public knowledge of African American life in Loudoun County and beyond.
Among them are the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Conklin Village Project commissioned by the Prosperity Baptist Church of Conklin, Pre-Integration Schools of Loudoun: A Project in Cooperation with the Loudoun County Public Schools and George Mason University, and Slave Quarters and the Settle-Dean Cabin, both projects of Loudoun County.
Contributions of Art to the Library
"Perseverance Through Faith and Strength" The Black History Committee presented this oil painting by William Woodward to Thomas Balch Library in 2005. It depicts themes representative of the African American experience in Loudoun County, including the Underground Railroad, stonemasonry, horse racing, military service, and the importance of church and family.
Legacy The Virginians ‘This Far By Faith'
A mixed media painting given to Thomas Balch Library in 2004 by the artist Katherine A. B. Summers in honor of African Americans in Loudoun County.
Acrylic on museum board by artist Sherry Zvares Sanabria, who was a longtime member of the Black History Committee of Friends ofThomas Balch Library. She focused her art on illustrating “sites of conscience”—that is, spaces “filled with and colored by the spiritual remnants of the lives lived in them.” This painting shows the cabin of Charles W. Dean, who worked as a slave for Thomas Settle in eastern Loudoun County. The painting was donated in memory of the artist to Thomas Balch Library by her family. Click here to listen to Sherry's talk on African American "Sites of Conscience."