Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Why We March: To Remember & Move Forward

By Edwin Henderson

The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Located in the City of Falls Church, the Foundation was created to preserve the rich cultural heritage of pioneering African Americans who fought racial segregation and established the nation’s first rural branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Linking history to the present, through our diverse programs, we promote understanding and respect for all people, create dialogue and action plans on race, religion and issues that divide us, and encourage new ways to coexist in multiracial communities as a city and a nation. A mission that is as important today as it has ever been in American history.

We invite you to bring your family and join us as we kick off our 20th Anniversary celebrations and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rich history of our city and region, and determine the way to move forward as a community.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation will host a “March for Unity, Racial Healing and Justice.” Beginning at the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument at 12:30 p.m., at 1 p.m. we will march to the Falls Church City Hall. A program to commemorate the legacy of Dr. King, the moral leader of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, will be held, including a panel on racial healing and justice and will begin at 2pm in Council Chambers. The Foundation is proud to sponsor this event with our partners, the City of Falls Church, the Bahá’ís of Falls Church, Virginia, the Fairfax County NAACP and the Northern Virginia Urban League.

The history of civil rights is rich in Falls Church, full of heroes who paved the way for a brighter future; a future we now enjoy and must advance. Beginning 100 years ago, early civil rights leaders Joseph Tinner and Dr. Edwin B. Henderson, along with other members of the Colored Citizens Protective League, who courageously fought against the segregation ordinance that would have removed African Americans from their homes and forced them to move to a section of town designated for “Coloreds Only.” Our own Ollie Tinner, Lola Sounders and Mary Ellen Henderson repeatedly petitioned the Fairfax County Board of Education for a new school for African American children, with little progress until they conducted a disparity study that exposed the gross difference in spending by the Board on White and African American schools. Community leaders Viola Hudson and Rev. Wallace Costner, Sr. fought for civil rights and equal utilities and community services, such as mail, electric and trash pick-up in the African American community.

When people think of civil rights leaders today, the names that come to mind are Dr. King, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, A. Phillip Randolph, Whitney Young, Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, Fanny Lou Hamer, Jesse Jackson, Ella Baker, Andrew Young, Julian Bond and John Lewis. But, even those heroes stood on the shoulders of the men and women who came before them. Each generation builds upon the generation that came before them, and Falls Church has a history that clearly illustrates this.

Today, we have new leaders, stepping up to the front lines of the struggle to protect civil and human rights. Among them are Cornell Brooks of the NAACP, Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter. These leaders depend on many others that follow and support their bold actions. Long standing national, regional and local organizations continue to stand up for rights and freedoms, such as the NAACP, the Urban league, the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, Homestretch, Tahirih Justice Center, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, along with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation.

We hope you join us at this important event, and others throughout the year, as we preserve and make history, while continuing to shape our future as a community committed to the rights of all.


Edwin Henderson is the founder and executive director of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation has collaborated with other entities to build the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument, the Tinner Hill Historic Site and the Tinner Hill Virginia Historic Marker.