With new signs at Freedom Hill Park, Fairfax County makes local history personal

New sign at Freedom Hill Park (via Fairfax County)

An upcoming dedication ceremony for new signs at Freedom Hill Park (8531 Old Courthouse Road) outside of Tysons represents more than just recognition of the struggles of local families during the Civil War era.

For the Fairfax County Park Authority, it’s the beginning of a shift in how local history is presented.

The Freedom Hill Park dedication is the first part of the Untold Stories project, which aims to shift historical presentation from a focus on big events and local celebrities to the more personal stories of Fairfax County’s past residents.

“It’s a relatively new initiative,” said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Park Authority. “We’ve been doing interpretations of properties and history for many years, but this is linked to the One Fairfax initiative. We’re looking for the more personal stories about families and their contributions.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted One Fairfax in November 2017, committing the county government to considering issues of equity in its policies and decision-making.

Originally dedicated in November 2012, Freedom Hill Park derived its name from the sizable community of free Black people that resided in the area during the 19th century, according to the park authority’s website.

Some of the stories told in the new signs at the site include that of Lucy Carter, a free woman of color who may have worked as a Union spy, and stories of intermarriages between the local Black community and the native Tauxenent and Pamunkey tribes.

Pedersen describes these as the stories that “wouldn’t necessarily make a history book” but help paint a better picture of what life was like in Fairfax County’s past.

Pedersen says the Freedom Hill Park signs are the county’s first time putting the project into practice, but there are a few other irons in the fire, and she hopes more residents come forward and share stories from their families’ past.

Scheduled for noon tomorrow (Saturday), the dedication will include a land recognition ceremony performed by Rose Powhatan, director of the Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture.

“It’s a custom dating back centuries to recognize that indigenous peoples were the original stewards of these lands,” Pedersen said. “It’s an acknowledgement of the roots of the origins of the land.”

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