Zitkála-Šá to Be Featured on a Quarter

By Toby McIntosh

Zitkála-Šá’s face will be on a quarter, the U.S. Mint recently announced, one of the five 2024 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program. It’s just a part of the continuing attention being given to the Native-American writer, musician and activist who lived in Lyon Park.

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux, lived on Barton Street in Lyon Park from 1926 until her death in 1938. She used the Lakota name Zitkála-Šá (pronounced: Zit-kah-la-sha). In 2020, Arlington County renamed the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets in her honor.

In Minnesota, an opera about her was produced in 2022, an appropriate tribute, since she co-composed an opera in 1913 considered to be the first Native-American opera. “We are showing that Zitkála-Šá’s story is not a frozen moment in time—that she has continued to shape and inspire and evolve current society, specifically [that of] Indigenous peoples in North America, to this day,” said one composer. Recently, her music was the inspiration for a collection of 13 pieces by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Raven Chacon.

Native News Online included her on a list created for Native American Heritage Month, Five More Native Americans Who Shaped Culture, calling her “one of the most influential prominent Native activists of the 20th century.”

If you’d like to learn more about Zitkála-Šá, there’s a PBS show on her from 2020. The Arlington Public Library has several of her books, and a number about her, including one for younger children (“Red Bird Sings”).

Frank Lyon and Racist Covenants in Lyon Park (Part II)

By John Ausink

Frank Lyon, our namesake, considered by some to be a suburban visionary, encouraged residents to become engaged in neighborhood affairs by donating land for our private park and contributing to the construction of the community center. But “Lyon’s Legacy,” a 2021 advocacy piece for Missing Middle initiatives published by Arlington Now says:

Frank Lyon, by pen and by brick, would succeed where [Robert E] Lee by sword had failed. The developers and planners of Lyon’s day embedded white supremacy so deeply in the foundation of our county that it has not yet today been driven out. 

Part of this claim is based on the existence of racially restrictive covenants for the sale of homes, but this and other sources reference the same 1976 article that cited one county deed with Frank Lyon’s name on it as the seller in a tract called Moore’s Addition. As a long-time resident of Lyon Park with an interest in local history, I decided to see if there were more such deeds from other parts of Lyon Park.

First some background:  Lyon’s ancestors came to Virginia in the 1730s. His grandfather was a general contractor in Petersburg who enslaved Black workers. Lyon’s father was a “distinguished and scholarly lawyer” who raised a company at Petersburg for the Confederate army. Lyon had three children who survived to adulthood; his son John was killed in WWI. While working as a stenographer Lyon attended Georgetown Law School’s night sessions, receiving a Master of Laws degree in 1890. In about 1902 he started practicing law in Alexandria (now Arlington) County, and became a partner with R. W. Moore, who was making real estate investments near Clarendon. 

We’ll focus now on Lyon’s covenants in land deeds. The map below marks the current boundaries of Lyon Park with a black dotted line to orient you to the numbered areas discussed below. 

Lyon was involved in real estate as early as 1904. In a “deed of dedication” from that year, in which Lyon proposes to subdivide an area he called Lyon’s Addition to Clarendon (the triangle labeled number 1 in the map), the parties agree that:

Liquor shall never be sold or dispensed from any building built on the property

The property won’t be used for any business that constitutes a nuisance to others (I was amused that he mentions a soap factory as an example)

There is nothing in this deed that mentions race. However, things get ugly after that. 

Lyon, Moore and others purchased a large tract of land that became known as Moore’s Addition to Clarendon. Section 2 of Moore’s addition, labeled 2 and bounded by red in the map, was subdivided in 1910. The subdivision deed makes no mention of race; however, when Lyon sold a lot in Moore’s Addition in 1919, the deed includes the liquor and soap factory restrictions above, but also adds:

…neither said property nor any part thereof nor any interest therein shall be sold or leased to any one not of the Caucasian race

Nor shall any house costing less than $2,000, other than an outbuilding, be erected thereon.

This is the deed cited by so many, but I wanted to see if there are more. I started with a home on N. Edgewood St. in Lyon Park Section 7 (labeled 7 in the map). The 1922 deed includes the racist covenant. It also states that no dwelling of value less than $4,000 can be built—but this restriction expires in 1930. I don’t know if the financial constraint was added to exclude lower-income Whites or was an additional barrier to Blacks. 

Next, I looked across Washington Blvd in the area labeled 5 on the map (section 5 of Moore’s Addition), where a 1922 deed for a plot on N. Cleveland St. disallows liquor, requires $4,000 buildings, includes the racist restriction, but adds that no two-family houses or apartments shall be erected prior to 1930.

Finally, I checked our own home on 2nd St N. in Lyon Park Section 6. A 1926 deed for the property includes the racist restriction but for some reason limits it, “for a period of 99 years from September 1, 1923.” This deed also forbids two-family houses or apartments but does not include the alcohol exclusion—for which we are grateful.

At this point I wondered if Ashton C. Jones, who created Ashton Heights in 1921, also barred Black residents. The 1921 deed of dedication for the sub-division does not include any restrictions, but a 1923 deed for land for a house on N. Kenmore St. includes the racist covenant without the 99-year expiration and makes it explicit that violation of this restriction will immediately result in a reversion of the property to Ashton’s company. 

When it comes to racist covenants, then, Frank Lyon was not alone in Arlington. I found it puzzling, though, that the Lyon’s Addition deed of 1904 did not include the racial covenant, so I did more research. I learned that there were many racist attempts to block Black residents, not just via housing deeds.

In 1912 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation permitting all cities and towns to adopt residential segregation ordinances. However, in 1917 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (based on a Kentucky case) that such residential segregation ordinances were unconstitutional. I haven’t found documentation, but I assume Lyon’s 1904 deed didn’t have the racial exclusion clause because he could legally exclude Blacks via other means. After 1917, since local government could not designate a neighborhood as Whites-only, an exclusionary clause for an individual plot could serve the same purpose. 

In 1924 Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited interracial marriage, and in 1929, the city of Richmond used the Act to prohibit a person from living in a neighborhood where he or she was not permitted to marry any member of the majority population—thus excluding Blacks from White neighborhoods. In a short time, however, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found the ordinance unconstitutional.

It wasn’t until 1948 that the U.S. Supreme court in Shelley v. Kraemer (a case from Missouri) ruled unanimously that restrictive covenants couldn’t be legally enforced by state or federal courts because of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. However, this ruling applied only to government enforcement of these covenants, and as private agreements such covenants could still be used. Thus, restrictive covenants would continue to be broadly used across the U.S. until they were outlawed with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This is reflected in the 1944 and 1960 deeds for our house, which include the phrase, “This conveyance is made subject to the restrictive covenants included in the chain of title to this property.” 

As a land developer, Frank Lyon exploited the racist housing restrictions of his time, incorporating the exclusionary covenants allowed in Virginia and other states, which constrained where Black citizens could live, go to school, and build wealth. How should we react to this history?


Who is the “Langston” of Langston Boulevard?

By Lauren Farrell Gardiner

Contrary to popular belief, Arlington’s Langston Boulevard is not named for the poet Langston Hughes. Rather, the former Lee Highway is named for Langston Hughes’ great uncle John Mercer Langston, an abolitionist, lawyer, and the first Black man to represent Virginia in Congress.

John Mercer Langston was born in Louisa, Virginia in 1829 to Lucy Langston, a Native American and former enslaved woman. His father was Ralph Quarles, a celebrated Revolutionary soldier, wealthy landowner, and Lucy’s enslaver, with whom Lucy had four children. Quarles emancipated Lucy and their first child in 1806, then Lucy left him and had 3 children with another man. She later returned to Quarles, lived with him as his common law wife (since interracial marriage was illegal), and they had three more children together, the youngest of whom was John Langston. 

Langston’s parents died in 1834, when he was only four years old. At the time, he moved to Ohio, where he was raised by family friends, and later, his older brothers. While living in Ohio, Langston was exposed to the strong anti-slavery rhetoric of the North. Langston graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and married fellow abolitionist Caroline Wall. Langston hoped to become a lawyer, but in the early 1850s, only three Black men nationwide had been admitted to law school. After two law school rejections, Langston studied under local abolitionists in Ohio and was only admitted to the Ohio bar in 1854 after a bar committee deemed him “nearer white than black.” He thus became the first Black lawyer in Ohio.

He and Caroline moved to Brownhelm, Ohio, where he won election to the post of Town Clerk. Some sources speculate that he was the first African American elected to public office in the United States. About a decade later, Langston served as Inspector General of the Freedmen’s Bureau, touring the postwar South, and encouraging freedmen to seek educational opportunities. In 1868, Langston went to Washington, DC, where he established the law department at Howard University and later served as dean of the University. He also served as Minister to Haiti. 
In 1889, after moving back to Virginia, Langston became the first Black person in Virginia to serve in the US House of Representatives. He had run as a Republican and lost to his Democratic opponent but contested the results of the election because of voter intimidation and fraud. After 18 months, the Congressional elections committee declared Langston the winner, and he took his seat in the U.S. Congress for the remaining six months of the term. He lost his bid for reelection because conservative White Democrats had regained political control of Virginia. It would be over a century before Virginia sent another Black representative to Congress. Following his time in Congress, Langston exited the political arena and wrote his autobiography, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol.

Frank Lyon and Arlington (Part I of III)

By Tracy Hopkins

Our Lyon Park website indicates that Lyon Park is named after Frank Lyon, who developed Lyon Park in 1919. It talks about Lyon Park’s development, but not much about Frank Lyon. Lyon descended from a family that was established in Virginia in 1730. His grandfather was a general contractor in Petersburg, Virginia. His father was a lawyer in Petersburg and, later, in Richmond. During the Civil War, his father served in the office of the Advocate General of the Confederacy. He was married to Mary Margaret Springs of Charlotte, North Carolina, and they had four children, including Frank.

Born on December 30, 1867, in Petersburg, Virginia, Lyon attended public schools in Richmond, graduating in 1884. After 18 months at Richmond College, Lyon began working in administration for railroad companies. In 1887, Lyon became the private secretary to Walter Bragg of the newly formed Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). He remained with the ICC until 1899, during which time Lyon also studied law at Georgetown University. He received a Master of Laws in 1890 and began to practice law in Alexandria County (renamed Arlington in 1920). 

Lyon married Georgie Hays Wright in 1890, and they built a small house, which no longer exists, on Lubber Run. They later lived on Kirkwood Road at the current site of the YMCA. The house they built in 1907 was Lyonhurst, now Missionhurst, at 4651 25th St. N. This residence was said to be the first home in the county to have electricity. 

Frank and Georgie Lyon had three children who survived to adulthood, two daughters and a son. The son, Lt. John Lyon, died near the end of World War I in the Argonne offensive in France. The John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3150 located at 2116 19th St. N., is named for him.

Lyon became the owner and editor of the Monitor newspaper in the early 1900s and was associated with the paper until its sale in 1928. He and the paper played a significant role in the dissolution of liquor and gambling interests in Rosslyn. He joined the legal crusade against liquor by representing temperance movement leaders. 

Lyon became a law partner of Robert Walton Moore and participated in the development of Moore’s addition to Clarendon. His development firm, Lyon and Fitch, developed Lyon Park in 1919. Later, the depression caused the dissolution of Lyon and Fitch, after which Lyon continued to practice law. He died on November 29, 1955 and is buried in Petersburg, Virginia.
NOTE: This article is derived from Rose, Ruth P., “The Role of Frank Lyon and His Associates in the Early Development of Arlington County,” The Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4, 1976. 

Memories of Arlington: Growing up in Halls Hill (now High View Park)

Based on an interview with LaVonia Sweeney

I was born in Washington, DC in 1942 and lived there until my parents moved to Halls Hill about 3 years later. Our house had been given to my parents by my grandfather as a wedding present with the condition that they pay off the $2000 balance. Our home in DC had indoor plumbing but the Halls Hill home only had an outhouse, which my mother found unacceptable. A bathroom with indoor plumbing was added and we moved in. Halls Hill was very rural, with woods all around and houses spread out. 

Halls Hill was an island of Black residences surrounded by houses owned by Whites. Segregation meant that Whites and Blacks did not mix or socialize. One example I recall is that my mother could not give birth to my baby brother (born in 1946) at Virginia Hospital just a few blocks away; my father had to take her to DC. Certain streets were walled off by White residents but, even where it was possible to walk into a White neighborhood, we did not do so because our parents told us not to. The reason was Whites did not want us there. 

I did not visit a public library in Arlington until much later since they were inside White neighborhoods. There were no nearby movie theaters or swimming pools we could use. There was a grocery store and a “5 and Dime” on Lee Highway we could shop at. We could buy ice cream at Giffords in Falls Church but not sit down in the restaurant to eat it. In case of fire, there was a Black firehouse for Black neighborhoods. If assistance was needed, the White fire departments would not send help to a Black neighborhood. But if assistance was needed in the White neighborhood, the Black firemen would help. 

We loved having parties with friends and family; it was our main entertainment. For school, I went to kindergarten at a lady’s house up the street and then attended grade school at Langston Elementary. In 7th grade I went to Hoffman-Boston, the only Black high school in Arlington. On Sundays, we attended the Black Catholic church in South Arlington called Our Lady Queen of Peace, which still exists. 

During 7th grade my family moved back to DC. I eventually went to a school in Powhatan, VA, near Richmond (formally named St. Francis de Sales High School for Colored and Indian Girls). My mother worked as a dental assistant and cut hair on the side. She said her tips sent me to boarding school. My father worked for the Army postal service in the Pentagon. He was not promoted for a long time but when he finally was, a White man quit his job there rather than work for a Black man.

In DC we could go to movies and swimming pools, but some places were still segregated, such as National Theater, where Black ticketholders could only sit in the balcony section. Now those are considered choice seats!   I never encountered the Ku Klux Klan in DC or Virginia but did when I worked in a Southern Maryland school. One day a Klansmen came to the school to distribute pamphlets—not for any specific event but to let everyone know the Klan was there.  

A highlight of my years in DC was attending Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I attended with my friends, so we were socializing during the event. We could hear him in the distance speaking for a long time, so we tried our best to pay attention!  Eventually I married a corpsman who became a warrant officer in the Navy, had two children, and moved around the east coast. I returned to my childhood home in Arlington in 2014, and I remember marveling at how I could go anywhere and do anything in the neighborhood. I walked up all the streets I couldn’t have walked before, and I have lived here since. Today, my daughter lives in southern Maryland and my son in Hawaii.

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.