The area in Western Prince William County, along route 29 and route 15, was once a bustling Black community comparable to #BlackWallStreet in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The formerly enslaved settled in this area and created a thriving Black community, following their emancipation. During the late 1800's, former slaves purchased several properties in this area for $10 per acre or much less. The Settlement was a self-sufficient community sustained by Black businesses, farming, trade, and most important of all, Black women and men who owned land during a time when brazen racial violence and Jim Crow Laws created barriers to prevent such accomplishments from being a reality.
The Settlement consisted of community staples such as: a country store, a blacksmith, mid-wives, two cemeteries, the McCrea school - it's important to note that one of Prince William County's "Courageous Four," Mrs. Fannie Fitzgerald taught was once assigned to Antioch-McCrea school; and Shady Inn Dance Hall - where legends such as Duke Ellington performed in its heyday.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church
As with many strong self-sustaining Black communities and movements throughout history, the strength of "The Settlement" evolved around the power of its pillar - the church. Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
"The members constructed the original church building in 1877. In 1882 church members purchased the current property for $10.00, and the church building was disassembled and reassembled at its current location, 15008 Lee Highway in Gainesville. Some years later the building was destroyed in a fire and the members constructed the current building in 1929." (http://www.mpbc-gainesville.org/history).
The Effort to Save Carter Road
The Alliance to Save Carver Road, co-chaired by Mrs. Joyce Hudson and Mr. Nathan Grayson, was established in an effort to organize and defend the Carver Road community against Dominion's transmission lines to serve Amazon data centers in Haymarket. The Alliance consists of Black senior citizens, who are descendants of freed slaves who purchased acres of land that made up The Settlement. The unwanted land that was once sold former slaves for $10 per acre (or less), is now sought after by developers offering an average of $300,000.00 per acre.
The area of The Settlement is no longer considered to be a Northern Virginia Black mecca, that it once was during its height, and with descendants moving out of the area over decades, there is little left; however what remains of this historical area is worth fighting for.
The current fight for the Alliance to Save Carver Road involves opposing high density residential development, and the widening of its roads to four lanes. Currently, the development is on hold as the Alliance and community await the completion of historic designation on The Settlement.
The VBLM village can help preserve this historic area and its legacy, by spreading the word of the significance of The Settlement and the importance of Black land ownership - especially during the late 1800's. Readers can also support the efforts of The Alliance to Save Carver Road by following them on social media, and supporting Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
As history has always shown us, we must not remain silent about things that matter. Do not be silent about the legacy of Carver Road. Share the narrative.