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Online archive seeks to preserve Arlington's African American history

4th and 5th graders in Arlington, Va. make biographies for "Black History Month" (ABC7 photo)

In celebration of Black History Month, Arlington County is encouraging donations to a new online photo archive. It was created to preserve the rich history of Nauck - an African American neighborhood also known as Green Valley - located just off I-395.

"A lot of people don't realize there's been a strong, vibrant black community in Arlington since before the Civil War," said Terron Sims, an executive member of the Nauck Civic Association.

Dozens of photos have been added to the Nauck Green Valley Heritage Project, developed by Arlington County as a resource for local African American history.

Arlington County Neighborhood Services Division Chief Chikwe Njoku said, "Some of the photos, we just have some generic information there. And if people email and say, 'Well, hey, that's such and such event during such and such time frame,' we want to know that info so we can update it. So it is a living and breathing database."

Like many neighborhoods experiencing gentrification, longtime Nauck residents point out their historically black neighborhood is changing.

Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark said, "Today, we're probably less than 32 percent African American."

To preserve Nauck's story, the local civic association has partnered with Drew Model School, where fourth and fifth graders recently created 3D biographies of Nauck leaders.

Through research and interviews, the students learned the school they now attend was once segregated.

Their teacher believes that knowledge - that story of perseverance and self-reliance - gives confidence to children of all colors.

Visual arts teacher Elaine Edwards said, "You need to know where you came from so that it helps you to develop as a person. And you appreciate what people have done for you in the past, so you can have the benefits and privileges now."

On Saturday February 27th, the school will host the 24th annual Feel The Heritage Festival, celebrating Arlington's African American history and culture.

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