About the Edwin Washington Society (formerly Diversity and Equality Fairs of Virginia)

The company was renamed by its Board of Directors the Edwin Washington Society on 9/18/2021. Under its former name, Diversity and Equality Fairs of Virginia (DFV) the corporation was formed in 2014 to foster non-partisan conversations about the value of diversity in modern society. This has remained a core strategic mission and we are now a member of CIVICUS, the world’s largest network of civic-minded groups, itself associated with the United Nations, providing our supporters with a global connection.  We have also sponsored or supported discussions on diversity. Self-awareness is critical for a society to grow in a positive way, using comparative strengths of all residents. As a result, DFV is also interested in the preservation of documents and other material.

Some of our programs and projects are as follows.

The Bulletin of Loudoun County History. This annual periodical began over half a century ago to reveal stories mostly about the county’s architecture, the Civil War, other aspects of local history and biographies. The Society took ownership in 2018, producing our first edition in late 2019. Prior issues were shared with members of a history club; but current issues are sold to the world on the internet and at sales-points in Loudoun, including Journeymen Saddlers in Middleburg and Morven Park in Leesburg. In addition, the new issues have more focus on Loudoun’s many ethnic groups and historically important trades. The Bulletin also has a Facebook page.

The Edwin Washington Project has roots in a 2011 commission by the Prosperity Baptist Church of Conklin in Loudoun County to document a predominantly Black village and its segregated school. By 2014, it evolved under its current name as a partner with Loudoun County Public Schools, documenting all the Black schools from the end of the Civil War until 1968, when integration arrived. Voted Loudoun’s best volunteer group in 2019, the project interviews segregation survivors and studies documents lost for decades in an abandoned Leesburg schoolhouse. Including hand-written petitions by parents and educators, the records cover both black and white education. Many are deteriorated, so we scan them and place everything in special archival containers. We also map the locations of all former white and black schools, and scour archives in many sites like Virginia State, Howard and Atlanta Universities and Swarthmore College, all which hold material on students and teachers in segregated Loudoun. Additionally, the team uses cutting edge technology such as multi-spectral imagery to reveal hidden text in damaged books, and to provide peer reviews, and are a member of the County School Association of America, the premier body studying rural schools in the United States. The website. In 2020, we began a formal relationship with Georgetown University Press. We are also a member of the Country School Association of America.

The John Rust Archives Project began in 2017 and is very similar to the Edwin Washington Project, except its focus is on documents created by or sent to a white local politician which were recovered from a wooden chest in a wet basement in Lovettsville. They reveal legal and political matters from the late 19th and early 20th century. Most were moldy and insect-eaten, so stabilization has been slow. Detailed research papers won’t emerge until 2022.

The Mortimer Virts Ledger Research Project begun in 2018. Lewis Jett discovered a ledger by coffin maker Mortimer Virts of Hillsboro with 19th and early 20th century records on white and Black burials. We have scanned the entire ledger and begun to study the contents. Scans of the coffin records are on this website. Readers are invited to comment.

GIS Service. The Society has developed a digital map of segregated schools that used to reside in Loudoun County. This is now being expanded to include all segregated schools in Virginia. The state-wide service is slated to come online in early 2023.

External Research: The Society actively looks at how segregation was carried out in other locations.

Other projects and services are being discussed.

Language is Important

As a nation of immigrants it is important to pronounce geographic or personal names the way an immigrant or descendent intends and not to complain when a name doesn’t comport with expectations. As an example, consider Botetourt County The pronunciation can be surprising for some. Instead of Bot e tort, it is pronounced ˈbɒtətɒt/ BOT-ə-tot

The use of words also evolves, along with society. The Edwin Washington Society has already begun to use Black, vs African-American. We also are migrating to enslavement or to enslave, vs slave. See this link for a good rationale.