THROWBACK THURSDAY--NOVA PARKS—CIVIL RIGHTS PARK

Tinner Hill lead

Most NOVA Parks properties are large. Even over 1,000 acres is not at all uncommon for a regional park. However, significance is not measured in acres. Sometimes even a half acre can have a giant impact.

Today, we take a moment to throw back, first to the 1880s and then to the early 1900s; all to shed light on a park with great historic and cultural significance. The park is called Tinner Hill and the story behind it is one of persistence, ingenuity, courage, survival and triumph.

After the Civil War, African Americans in the Falls Church area formed a community. Many of them were members of the Tinner family, and the area became known as Tinner Hill.  In 1887, a line gerrymandered half of this community into Falls Church and half into Fairfax County. This effort to divide the community corresponded with the end of the reconstruction era and the beginning of the Jim Crow era. In 1915, the Falls Church Town Council proposed a law that would segregate the town, and under this plan, many of the residents of Tinner Hill would not be allowed to live in that part of town.  Brave residents of the area decided to challenge the proposed law.

On January 8, 1915, Mr. Joseph Tinner and Dr. E.B. Henderson convened a meeting at the Tinner’s home, the site which is now the historical park. Those who came to the meeting formed the “Colored Citizens Protective League” to fight the ordinance. The league hired attorneys, filed a law suit claiming that the law was unconstitutional, and won their case.  The league later became the first rural chapter of the NAACP.  

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, both the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County bought their pieces of the site where Joseph Tinner’s house was on the City/County line.

In 2014, prior to the 100th anniversary of the historic meeting, the City and County leased their lands to NOVA Parks to develop into a regional park. Working with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, NOVA Parks built a shelter, pathway along the City/County line that divided the neighborhood, sculpture and historic markers, to tell the story of this site and the remarkable people who pursued justice and equity in a dangerous time.

Many people do not fully understand that the civil rights movement was not just something that happened in the 1950s and 1960s, but is an effort with a much longer history of successes and setbacks.

Part of the NOVA Parks mission is to help tell the story of America, through the many sites that bore witness to important historic events. From Native American, Colonial, Civil War, Civil Rights, Voting Rights and more, the historic sites of NOVA Parks help tell the story of us.

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