Black History Committee
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.”
We conduct research on African American life in Loudoun County and publish books and monographs that shed light on our black heritage. We create and conduct tours of historic black communities, churches, and schools. We bring individuals and organizations together to preserve significant sites. And we partner with groups such as the Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee and the Mt. Zion Community Cemetery Committee to produce events that celebrate and commemorate the contributions of African Americans. (Above, Loudoun author Kevin Dulany Grigsby speaks at an Emancipation Day Celebration in Purcellville.)
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 visit sites in Waterford, such as the John Wesley Church, and the Second Street School, shown below with the Class of 1920. The tour also took visitors to Leesburg, Purcellville, Gleedsville, Middleburg, and Oatlands Plantation.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE LIBRARY
"Perseverance Through Faith and Strength"
The Black History Committee presented this oil painting by William Woodward to the 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 the Thomas Balch Library in 2004 by the artist Katherine A. B. Summers in honor of African Americans in Loudoun County.
Settle-Dean Cabin: Acrylic on museum board by artist Sherry Zvares Sanabria, who was a longtime member of the Black History Committee of Friends of the Thomas 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 the Thomas Balch Library by her family. Click here to listen to Sherry's talk on African American "Sites of Conscience."
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 ofThomas 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 of Thomas 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 here.
Meetings and Conferences
Black History Committee members and former members frequently give papers and presentations at museum and conferences.