By Visit Loudoun

Back in the 1980s, when Maryland native Jason Nichols was a kid visiting extended family in Hamilton and Purcellville, he assumed Loudoun was predominantly African American. “I trace my ancestry in Loudoun back to the late 1700s, and when I visited, I was surrounded by black friends, neighbors and relatives.” 

Fast forward 30 odd years and Nichols, 41, now a political commentator, hip-hop authority and award-winning University of Maryland African American Studies academic, chuckles wryly, “I was shocked when I got older to learn my experience was just a small part of the county.” 

Stories such as this, as well as reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King and African Americans who fought in the Vietnam War, are among the subjects guest speaker Nichols will discuss at the Thomas Balch Library, in Leesburg on Sunday, Feb. 23, one of several events in Loudoun to commemorate Black History Month.

On Saturday Feb 1, The Black History Committee, Friends of the Thomas Balch Library, Chaired by Donna Bohanon is holding an Open House titled: “Preserving African American Sites and Stories.” Featured speaker at the open house will be Friends of the Arcola Slaver Quarters led by Arlean Hill. The event will explore successful multi-year efforts to save such vital Loudoun landmarks as the Settle-Dean Cabin (log cabin of formerly enslaved Thomas Settle in South Riding), and the 1800s-built stone Slave Quarters in Arcola in the face of development.

In eastern Loudoun, the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum will host three speakers who will discuss the African American-owned farms of Sterling in the 20th Century. The Saturday, Feb. 15 event, starting at 1 p.m., will focus on the Ewing, Edds and Nokes families who operated successful dairy and wheat farms in the area. Indeed, parts of Sterling are still known as Nokesville today, and among the speakers will be a descendant of the Edds’s whose thriving dairy farm was at what is now the busy intersection of Countryside Blvd and Rt. 7. 

Of course, Loudoun’s African American story exists beyond Black History Month. Loudoun County Courthouse and Oatlands Historic House & Gardens are also listed as National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites and worth visiting outside of the above events, and you can celebrate the entrepreneurial spirt of Loudoun African Americans over  cocktails or dinner at the swanky Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, owned by billionaire African American businesswoman Sheila Johnson.