During the final weekend of Black History Month, many gathered at an events center in Sterling to learn about and reflect on the black men and women who are part of Loudoun County’s story.
The Black History Month Expo, held Saturday at the Cascade Overlook Event Center, was organized by the Loudoun Freedom Center. The event featured breakout sessions that gave attendees a chance to hear and discuss a variety of topics—from a presentation on the county’s slave communities to a discussion on how to “bridge the STEM gap in African-American education.”
Kevin D. Grigsby, author of “From Loudoun To Glory” and “Howardsville: The Journey of an African-American Community in Loudoun County, Virginia,” said not many people know that more than 300 African American men from Loudoun County fought in the Civil War. When he learned that in his research, he said, “That was really moving to me. That’s a story in itself.”
Local historian Larry Roeder spoke about his efforts to preserve historic documents that tell the stories of Loudoun’s early black citizens. He showed the audience photos of several petitions addressed to county or school officials that were signed by black residents. “They wrote these petitions to ask for toilets, teachers, roads. … Sometimes they got it. Sometimes they did not,” he said.
Roeder is creating what he called “a role of honor” that includes the names of everyone who signed the petitions, which will be safely stored in acid-free, chemical-free boxes. “Because we believe this is a national treasure,” he said.
Speakers also included Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10); Leesburg Town Council member Ron Campbell; Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg); Sheila Coates, of Black Women United for Action; Loudoun County Historic Preservation Planner Heidi Siebentritt; Donna Bohanon, of the Friends of Thomas Balch Library’s Black History Committee; Northern Virginia Community College STEM Coordinator Tosin Adetoro; and Eric Larson, historic records manager in the Loudoun County Circuit Court, among others.
Learn more about the Loudoun Freedom Center at loudounfreedomfoundation.com.