Who Was Dr. Charles Drew?

By Kalkidan Ausink

You may be familiar with Charles R. Drew Elementary or Community Center, but not the local hero for whom the school is named, a Black physician whose blood transfusion discoveries transformed emergency medicine and surgery. When Dr. Drew started studying blood, it only had a shelf life of a few days, which meant the donor had to almost be co-located with the recipient—an unmanageable situation in times of war, for example. Drew made two remarkable discoveries: 1) he figured out that cells are what determine blood type and that plasma, when separated from cells, could be given to anyone regardless of blood type and 2) he invented a method by which plasma could be dried and reconstituted when needed. 

Dr. Drew was born in 1904 as the eldest son of a carpet layer. He grew up in Washington D.C. and attended Dunbar High School, the first public high school for Black students in the United States. In 1920, Drew’s oldest sister died from tuberculosis and influenza during a city-wide epidemic. Drew’s family blamed the city’s air for her death and moved to Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood that year. 

Drew attended Amherst College on an athletic scholarship, lettering in four sports. He suffered a college football injury and credits the ensuing hospitalization, along with the death of his sister, as inspiring his interest in medicine. After Amherst, Drew earned medical and surgery degrees from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He returned to our area in 1935 as a pathology instructor at Howard University and later earned a Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia University, the first African American to do so. 

Drew saved thousands of lives as the medical director for “Blood for Britain,” creating what would eventually be today’s mobile blood bank for British soldiers in World War II. As Drew ramped up plasma stockpiles for America’s entry into the war, the military stipulated that the American Red Cross exclude African Americans from donating, later deciding that they could donate blood, but only for Black troops. Drew, the leading expert in blood banking, was ineligible to participate in the program he helped establish. He resigned in protest. In 1950, at age 45, Drew’s life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in North Carolina. Drew’s home at 2505 1st Street South is a historical landmark.

Neighbor Profile:  Doorways for Women and Families

Community members who were concerned that there was no safe space in Arlington for families in crisis founded Doorways in 1978. The organization aims to address the interconnectedness among the cycles of sexual assault, domestic violence, and homelessness, and help survivors avoid having to choose between staying with abusers or facing homelessness.

What began as a single shelter to support families in crisis has since grown into a wide range of programs and pathways for people of all ages and genders. Doorways envisions a community where all people live free from violence and have safe and stable housing. Every year, the organization provides shelter and housing for more than 200 people and helps them achieve safety and stability. Doorways also supports hundreds more adults, youth, and children through their 24-hour domestic and sexual violence hotline ([703] 237-0881), mobile advocacy services, court advocacy, hospital accompaniment, individual and group counseling, and prevention programming.

  • 94% of Doorways Safehouse households did not return to abusive living situations.
  • 74% of family home households obtained permanent housing post-shelter.
  • 99% of children with social-emotional issues received services and counseling.

Services like these have been essential throughout the COVID pandemic, with many families experiencing financial and emotional strain, loss of employment, and eviction. The Doorways Family Home team in our neighborhood has supported families throughout this period to ensure that members of our community receive shelter, housing, and comprehensive support.

Doorways is a non-profit organization supported by donations from neighbors (including United Way and Combined Campaigns), matching corporate gifts, gifts, and in-kind giving. To learn more about Doorways, including ways to volunteer and help, visit www.doorwaysva.org

Civil Rights Icon from Arlington

By Elaine Simmons

It took a visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC to learn about a hometown hero. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a civil rights activist and a Freedom Rider, attended Nottingham Elementary and spent much of her adult life in the Barcraft neighborhood. 

Joan Trumpauer’s mother was a segregationist from Georgia who sent Joan to Duke University, which, in 1960, was segregated and seeped in southern culture. But early on Joan rebelled against white supremacy. She joined the lunch counter sit-ins in 1961 (first started in 1960 in the Greensboro Woolworth by four Black men from North Carolina A&T University) and then dropped out of Duke after being pressured to stop her activism. She was the first white woman to enroll at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi, graduating in 1964. 

Joan returned to this area and worked with activists like Stokely Carmichael on the Freedom Rides, in which Black and white activists traveled together to challenge the segregated buses and bus stations of the South. She also participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. 

To end segregation in Arlington, Joan joined Howard University students in trying to integrate the lunch counter of the Drug Fair drugstore in Cherrydale, at Peoples Drug at the corner of Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive, and at a Woolworth’s in Shirlington. 

Joan and her fellow protestors faced violent white mobs and incarceration for their peaceful efforts to end systemic racism. An iconic photograph shows enraged whites reacting to Joan and other protesters (including one of Joan’s professors from Tougaloo) while the protestors sat calmly at a lunch counter. According to one account, the protesters were “doused in food, cut with broken glass, hit with brass knuckles, and burned with cigarettes. The police stood by while men were kicked and punched, and women were yanked from the counter by their hair.” 

In connection with the Freedom Riders, Joan and others were arrested and incarcerated for two months in cells previously occupied by Death Row inmates at the notorious Parchman Farm at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. In Arlington, she and fellow protestors were shot at by angry mobs and were counterpicketed by local Nazis wearing swastikas. She and her fellow protestors were hunted by the Ku Klux Klan and at one point, Joan was deemed mentally ill for trying to eliminate white supremacy. Joan eventually worked and raised five sons on Taylor Street in the Barcroft area. She has been the subject of many documentaries and articles, but perhaps this local hero deserves more recognition from the governments of Arlington County and the Commonwealth.