Virginia

Joan Mulholland: Arlington's Homegrown Activist

Joan Muholland mugshot after her arrest in Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. (Photo source: Joan Muholland)

What are you doing tonight? Hopefully you're planning on going to the Arlington Historical Society's free public program with civil rights activist Joan Mulholland. It's tonight at 7pm at the Arlington County Central Library.

By the time she was 23, Mulholland had participated in more than fifty sit-ins and protests. She was a Freedom Rider, a participant in the near riotous Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth Sit-in, and helped plan and organize the March on Washington in 1963. On a local level, she was part of the first Arlington sit-ins, which integrated lunch counters across northern Virginia, and helped to coordinate demonstrations at Glen Echo Park, Bethesda's Hiser Theater amongst other locations.

During tonight's program, Mulholland will discuss her experiences and show clips from her son Loki’s film, An Ordinary Hero. She was kind enough to sit down with Boundary Stones and give us a preview of her talk. Check out the video below and click through for more!

Arlington's Bravest: The Arlington County Fire Department

It's a foreign concept now but for many years, Arlington County did not have its own fire department. Instead, the county was served by a number of independent volunteer fire departments. These were organized locally, typically within neighborhoods where citizen leaders saw the need for some level of fire protection and established a resource right in their own neighborhood. (The first such VFD was established in Cherrydale in 1898.) When a fire broke out, the volunteers would leave their homes or businesses and go fight the flames.

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Bonus Marchers

In 1932, as the nation lingered in the desperate depths of the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans and their families marched on Washington to demand immediate lump-sum payment of their military pensions. To the consternation of President Herbert Hoover, who was about to embark upon a difficult reelection campaign, the ragtag army camped in tents and shacks along the Anacostia River, and began trying to pressure the White House and Congress by marching up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Unfortunately, the bill to pay them their benefits passed the House but was overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate in June.

The marchers stubbornly stayed, and rebuffed the Hoover administration's offer of train fare out of town. In response, Hoover decided to evict them by force. On July 28, in one of the most disturbing moments in the history of Washington, U.S. horse cavalry wearing gas masks and steel helmets, and backed by five tanks, descended upon the bonus marchers, scattering them and their wives and children and burning their campsites. 

Roberta Flack in 1971. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Arlington's Roberta Flack Gets Her Start at Mr. Henry's

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Roberta Flack started playing the piano at an early age. When she was five, her family moved to the Nauck community in Arlington and she took up the organ, lending her musical talents to Macedonia Baptist Church. At 15, she entered Howard University with a full music scholarship and, by 19, she was a college graduate seeking.

She accepted a position in a segregated school district in Farmville, North Carolina and wound up being the only music teacher for 1300 students, kindergarten through 12th grade. “I lost 40 pounds and almost had a nervous breakdown but we did some beautiful things that year.”[1]

Flack returned to Washington and taught at Rabaut Junior High School and Brown Junior High School. In the evenings, she started performing – first at the Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights and then at Mr. Henry’s, a Capitol Hill nightclub at 6th and Pennsylvania Ave, SE, which was owned by Henry Yaffe.

Meeting the Community's Needs: Arlington’s Friendly Cab Company

In the 1940s, Jim Crow held strong in Arlington, Virginia. African-Americans encountered discrimination at segregated eating establishments, businesses and recreation facilities. Even access to medical care was divided along racial lines.

African American mothers were barred from the maternity ward at Arlington Hospital and were expected to travel to hospitals in Washington, D.C. or Alexandria to give birth. For many black Arlingtonians, getting to D.C. was difficult – especially in a medical emergency – as many could not afford cars of their own.

In 1947, three men with bright ideas and business ingenuity stepped up to fill the void.

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 21 Steps at a Time

Sentinels guard the Tomb at all times, and in all weather conditions. (Source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Lloyd Cosby remembers standing on the plaza at Arlington Cemetery, inspecting a guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, when an elderly woman approached him. “Are the guards here at night?” she asked.

It was the late 1950s, during the year and seven months that Cosby served as the Tomb guards’ platoon leader. Later that day, the woman would tell Cosby about her son who had died at war, but had never been identified. The Tomb of the Unknowns was the only place she could come to pay her respects.

“Yes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Cosby told her. “Every second of every minute of every day.”

Sit-ins Come to Arlington

Activists at drug store counter in Arlington. (Source: Washington Area Spark on Flickr.)

Shortly after 1pm on June 9, 1960 a biracial contingent of college students entered the People’s Drug Store at Lee Highway and Old Dominion Dr. in Arlington and requested service at the store’s lunch counter. Less than a mile away, a similar group sat down at the counter at the Cherrydale Drug Fair.

Both lunch counters promptly closed.

Still, the students did not move. In fact, they remained seated for hours, calmly reading books and Bibles until well after dark, in protest of the stores’ refusal to serve African American patrons at their lunch counters.

Horse racing was a popular pasttime in Washington during the early 19th century. (Photo source: Library of Congress)

DC Hosts the Civil War of Horse Racing, 1822

In the 19th century, the North and South waged an important battle. No, not the Civil War- horse racing! Before the war between the states with military and espionage there was a stirring contest fought with the finest horses that either side could breed, and the first battle took place right in the heart of Washington D.C., at the National Course somewhere around 14th Street, north of Euclid Street and south of Columbia Heights.

All the ‘Hoos Down in ‘Hooville: The Persistent Myth of the Grinch in Charlottesville

High on Lewis Mountain, to the west of the picturesque college town of Charlottesville, sits a house that looks down on the famous University of Virginia. According to legend, Massachusetts resident Dr. Theodore Giesel  – better known to the majority of the world as Dr. Seuss – lived in the house after his application to the university was rejected.

Giesel was allegedly so upset over being snubbed by UVA that he purchased a house on the hill overlooking the school, because its elevated location allowed him to “look down” on the institution that rejected him. The setting is also allegedly the inspiration behind his famous children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Which does, after all, come with repeated references to all those ‘Hoos down in ‘Hooville – something that UVA students, nicknamed “Wahoos” – or ‘Hoos for short – in honor of a particular type of fish, have always embraced.

Hmmm... could it be true?

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