Local Commentary

Editorial: Celebrating F.C.’s Civil Rights History

It was a highly unusual, almost surreal sound. It was the sound of a hundred pairs of mittens and gloves “clapping,” or more accurately, softly thumping.

That was the noise made by the many regional dignitaries who braved for an hour and a half 17 degree temperatures to be there for the dedication of the Tinner Hill historic site on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the movement launched there that eventually resulted in the establishment of the first rural chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The dignitary-heavy nature of the event stemmed from the collaborative efforts between Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church in the late 1990s to buy two lots of land that straddled the City-county line by S. Washington St. for purposes of establishing an historic site to become home to civil rights educational resources. The project is now ready to take off. The senior dignitary present was the Hon. Gerry Connolly, representing the 11th District of Virginia just to the west of Falls Church, who was the pivotal Providence District supervisor of Fairfax County in the late 1990s when the deal was struck to assemble the land.

The night before, at the new Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Falls Church, well over 100 Tinner Hill Foundation supporters gathered for an awards banquet. It was attended by the Hon. Jim Moran, just retired after 24 years as the U.S. Congressmen representing the 8th District of Virginia that includes the City of Falls Church, who was perpetually instrumental in the progress of the Tinner Hill vision, and the chair of the national NAACP, Roslyn Brock.

Of course, the seminal influences of Nikki and Ed Henderson were both the driving force and the center of the entire weekend, as well as the Tinner Hill Foundation for years overall. If there was anyone who was not present who was not to be overlooked as another seminal influence, it was Falls Church’s legendary David Eckert, now living on the west coast, whose tireless efforts led to the establishment of the Henderson home on S. Maple as an historic site, to the construction of the civil rights monument on S. Washington made of the pink granite that the original Tinner and Henderson families from that neighborhood mined from the quarry near there, and to early support for the Tinner Hill Foundation. The News-Press was proud to be the media sponsor of last weekend’s events.

It was on January 8, 1915 that Ed Henderson’s grandfather, Dr. Edwin Henderson, met with eight others in the home of Joseph and Mary Tinner to craft a fight against an ordinance designating segregated districts in Falls Church. It led to the launching of a letter writing campaign protesting the ordinance, a lawsuit, and later to creation of the seminal “Falls Church and Vicinity NAACP” chapter. The lawsuit helped spark the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a similar one in the NAACP’s favor in 1917.