Tysons, Virginia’s Untold Stories: The Freedom Hill Community

Drive through busy Tysons, Virginia, and the traffic, buildings and construction make it hard to imagine the place as anything but a busy urban center. But did you know that it was once a rural community made up of free Black Fairfax County citizens?

They lived in a community called Freedom Hill. Popular tradition suggests that the area got its  name because of the large number of free Black residents living in the vicinity in the 19th century, wrote Michael Rierson, Former FCPA Resource Stewardship Branch Manager. Freedom Hill was one of Fairfax County’s earliest Black communities.

Freedman’s Bank Record for Augustus Dobson of Freedom Hill, 1873. (ancestry.com and National Archives)

One of the prominent families in Freedom Hill were the Carters, whose matriarch, Keziah Carter, was of Tauxenent/Pamunkey ancestry. She purchased 50 acres of her ancestral land in 1842. According to family lore Keziah Purchased the freedom of her enslaved black husband Robert Carter. Her multiracial family lived, bartered and sold property and food among each other and the community. Keziah Carter and her descendants are buried in the Carter family cemetery nearby on land they once owned.

Near the end of the Civil War, soldiers with the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery constructed a small earthen redoubt in the Freedom Hill neighborhood. The small fortification did not see any action before the war ended in May 1865. Life at Freedom Hill was monotonous but free from danger. Soldiers’ time was usually divided between patrol duty, construction work, and loafing. Their diaries tell of looking forward to hard labor in order to get away from the boredom of outpost life, Rierson said.

Map of N. Eastern Virginia and vicinity of Washington, McDowell 1862 (Library of Congress)

Today, you can visit the site at Freedom Hill Park. Recently installed interpretive signs provide more information about the families who lived in the neighborhood, as well as the fort that bears the community’s name. The signage  is part of the Park Authority’s Untold Stories program, which aims to increase the representation of all peoples in the stories the Park Authority tells as it interprets county natural and cultural resources.

In July 2021, family members from several states, park neighbors and community leaders gathered at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna for the inaugural Untold Stories program. 

The Fairfax County Park Authority is committed to sharing stories and information learned from artifacts and archives to recognize the contributions, struggle and history of African-Americans in Fairfax County and our parks. Our hope is to not only share these stories and programs, but to encourage conversation and inspire appreciation and change for the future.

Freedom Hill Park is located at 8531 Old Courthouse Road near the intersection of Old Court House Road and Rt. 123 in the Westbriar area of Tysons Corner.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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