State Historical Marker “Westwood Community” To Be Dedicated in Richmond

Published August 20, 2021

August 18, 2021

Contact: Randy Jones, DHR Randy.jones@dhr.virginia.gov 540-578-3031

Formerly enslaved African Americans settled in Westwood Village after the Civil War; it became a vibrant Henrico Co. community, annexed in 1942 by the City of Richmond, which sought to demolish it for a park

The marker text reproduced below

RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this weekend that highlights Westwood Village, a community established by formerly enslaved African Americans after the Civil War. Originally located in Henrico County, Westwood was annexed by the City of Richmond in 1942, which later sought to demolish it for a park—a plan the community successfully resisted. The marker’s sponsor, Friends of Westwood Playground, will dedicate the sign during an unveiling ceremony at 12 noon, Sunday, August 22, at the marker’s location at the intersection of Willow Lawn Drive and Dunbar Street, in Richmond. Event speakers will include Andreas Addison, of the Richmond City Council, Patricia S. O’Bannon, of the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, and Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. Among the other participants will be former and current residents of Westwood including Clarence N. Finney Jr., Tammy F. Rose, Warrick Taylor, Brenda Dabney Nichols, Jane Cooper-Johnson, and Nora Liggans Hopkins, the oldest original resident of Westwood. The Rev. Dr. Jeanette L. Brown, president of Friends of Westwood Playground, will offer a benediction, and Kevin Davis and Ban Caribe Drummers will provide a musical contribution. After establishing Westwood Village, residents “built houses, a church, a school, and businesses, forming a vibrant, self-sustaining community with many social and cultural organizations,” in the words of the marker. During the mid-1940s, the community resisted several attempts by the City of Richmond to demolish it for a park. “Residents also combated segregation in Richmond’s public schools,” the marker reads. A Westwood student became the first Black to attend Richmond’s Westhampton Junior High, in 1961, and Thomas Jefferson High, in 1962. The Westwood marker was approved for manufacture and installation in 2019 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. The Friends of Westwood Playground paid the marker’s manufacturing costs. Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Richmond. [PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.] Text of marker: The Westwood Community Formerly enslaved African Americans established Westwood Village here after the Civil War. Residents built houses, a church, a school, and businesses, forming a vibrant, self-sustaining community with many social and cultural organizations. The City of Richmond annexed Westwood from Henrico County in 1942. In the mid-1940s, residents resisted several attempts by the city to demolish the community and replace it with a park. Residents also combated segregation in Richmond’s public schools. A student from Westwood became the first African American to attend Westhampton Junior High (in 1961) and Thomas Jefferson High (in 1962) after a federal court decision in Warden v. Richmond School Board.
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