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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Falls Church


Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Written Evidence
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
City Apologized, Changed Policies

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 2331 120
1940 2576 156
1960 10,192 144
1970 10,772 152
1990 8,533 298

Method of Exclusion

  • Police or Other Official Action
  • Zoning

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


Not a sundown town, but it attempted to become wholly residentially segregated:
“In 1890 the Town Council of Falls Church voted to give away most of the African-American owned land in the town from Tinner Hill to Arlington Boulevard back to Fairfax County. This virtually cut the size of the town by 20%. Today, this land is bounded by Hillwood Avenue, Annandale Road, and Route 50.
In January 1915 the Falls Church Town Council went even farther by adopting an ordinance establishing residential segregation. The Town Council formed a Committee on Segregation to create a map of the segregated areas of town. The committee had six months to do this and then the law would go into effect a year after its original passage. A 1912 law from the Virginia General Assembly allowed passage of such segregation laws. African-American families already living in the parts of the town designated for whites could stay but no new African-Americans could move into these segregated areas. They could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and be fined from $5 a day the first week of the violation (but not to exceed $50) and then $2 a day after that.
The same month Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson called a meeting of local African-American families. In Jaunary 1915 Dr. Henderson and Joseph Tinner organized the Colored Citizens Protective League. The group wrote letters to the Falls Church mayor and city council and hired an attorney to try to block the ordinance saying that it violated their 14th Amendment rights of equal protection under the law. Dr. Henderson also wrote to W.E.B. DuBois in New York to get a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) formed. As a result the town council reversed its position and did not enforce the segregation ordinance. In November of 1917 the segregation law was formally nullified by the Virginia State Supreme Court. The Falls Church City Council did not formally repeal the law until February of 1999. In June 1918 the Falls Church and Vicinity Branch of the NAACP was formally given a charter becoming the first rural branch of the NAACP in the United States. The Falls Church and Vicinity Branch of the NAACP also helped organized other branches in Arlington, Fauquier, Prince William, and Loundon counties in Northern Virginia as it to reach out into other rural areas where the Ku Klux Klan and racial bigotry were the strongest.
Over the next 50 years, Tinner and Henderson organized civil rights activities that set a precedent for the rural South. The Hendersons, Tinners, and other brave local citizens of the Tinner Hill area risked their lives and livelihoods to defend the principals of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Beyond fighting against the segregation ordinance, they helped foster a movement that has had far-reaching consequences.
African-Americans in Falls Church area also fought for such conveniences as a larger segregated elementary school (1947), door-to-door postal service (1949), public sanitary sewers and water (1955), and street lights (1968). The first integrated Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops that were allowed in Falls Church were also started.
Tinner Hill Joseph Tinner
In the late 1800s Charles and Mary Tinner bought land in Falls Church and the area has been known as Tinner%u2019s Hill ever since.
The Tinner Hill Monument
To commemorate their actions, the Tinner Hill Foundation has constructed a monument at the intersection of Tinner Hill Road and South Washington Street (Route 29; at the corner of the SAAB car dealership). The Monument was designed by Falls Church resident and teacher, John Ballou, and was built of the same pink granite as quarried from the base of Tinner Hill. The arched monument was dedicated in 1999 and stands 14 feet tall and has two plaques commemorating the residents of Tinner Hill and the NAACP.

July 9, 2002)