New Historical Marker Unveiled in Fairfax County

By Office of Communications
June 05, 2024

In 2021, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors launched a Black/African American Historical Marker Project to “ensure a more comprehensive and inclusive telling of Fairfax County’s diverse history.” The following year, Fairfax County Public Schools and local partners hosted a contest as part of this project. Area students researched possible people and locations to be featured on markers, and 14 finalists were selected

The finalists were narrowed down, and six markers were chosen to be installed. A committee worked on refining the language for the markers. In June 2024, the first marker was installed to honor Lillian Blackwell, who successfully sued to ban segregation of public accommodations.

A historical marker on Lillian BlackwellBlackwell was raised within walking distance of what is now Oakton High School. In 1959, she joined a lawsuit that removed barriers to desegregating FCPS. 

 “As a result of her desegregation efforts, several of Ms. Blackwell’s children and grandchildren are Oakton alumni,” said Oakton Principal Jamie Lane. “It is truly an honor to have this marker on our campus. We believe her legacy will continue to inspire students, staff, and the community for generations to come.”

See more photos and a video of the unveiling on the Oakton High School Instagram page

The other five markers to be installed will recognize:

  • Louise Archer, an educator and namesake of Louise Archer Elementary School, who supported numerous students over her time.
  • Annie Harper, who challenged the constitutionality of Virginia’s poll tax.
  • Gunnell’s Chapel, which was built on land donated by once enslaved Robert Gunnell. The chapel was also used as a schoolhouse.
  • Colin Powell, a long-time county resident, four-star general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, founder of the organization America’s Promise, the first African American secretary of state, and namesake of Colin Powell Elementary School.
  • The West Springfield 16, who were enslaved people who labored and lived where West Springfield High School is located today. See a video about the West Springfield 16.

The historical marker project was a joint effort between the Fairfax County Board of SupervisorsFairfax County Public Schools, the Fairfax County History Commission, and Neighborhood and Community Services.