Introduction

Warren Jackson, Mr. Pryor, Ernest Johnson

Arlington County's Department of Recreation was created by the County Board on January 3, 1948, bringing together the playground program, at that time conducted by the County Schools, the county's recreation centers, a community chest program, and a construction and maintencance section of the County Planning Division.

Arlington was still a segregated county, at that point, so a separate section of the Department of Recreation was set up to provide programming for the county's Black citizens. Earnest Johnson, pictured at right, was hired to head up a new division to plan for and supervise programming for Black citizens in June of 1950.

The Negro Recreation Section, as it was called, had actually begun that Spring under a part-time supervisor, with a primary emphasis on sports. Under Johnson, the program was expanded to include more sports, as well as cultural programming, pageants, and other events.

In 1959, when Arlington Public Schools began to desegregate, the Department of Recreation made its own tentative first steps toward desegregation with a series of multiracial youth dances. These dances continued to be held periodically for the next four years, and in 1962, the Parks Department officially desegregated. Mr. Johnson was absorbed into the larger programming department, where he continued to work for some years.

These photos provide a fascinating snapshot of Black Arlington in the last decade or so of segregation, highlighting sports, cultural events, and other leisure time activities.