Fairfax County has opted not to move forward with potentially renaming the Sully District.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith announced at yesterday’s board meeting that she believes “the best step at this time is to retain” the name of the teaching district, which covers southwest Fairfax County.
Based on input from virtual forums, emails and community interviews, he proposed new ways to educate residents and visitors about the history of the area, especially the plantation in Chantilly that gave the area its name and is now the Sully Historic Site.
“Going forward, I am actively talking with the NAACP, the county’s equity director and the executive director of Fairfax County about ways we can have a more honest conversation about the history of the country, the county and the Sully district,” Smith said in a news release.
Without further discussion by the full Board of Supervisors, the decision concludes a months-long effort to gather public input after the County’s 2021 Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) recommended Name Changes to the Sully and Prior Lee District earlier this year.
After its first task of drafting county election district maps, the committee was tasked in January with reviewing whether to name any districts that may be based on historical ties to the Confederacy, slavery, or racism.
According to a report completed in March, the Sully District was named after the plantation built by Richard Bland Lee, the first person to represent Northern Virginia in Congress. He said four generations of people have been slaves and traded on the property, including hundreds of people in Mr. Lee’s custody.
When Lee inherited the land from his father in 1787, he enslaved 29 people, according to the official history of the park site, which is the 225-year-old Lee home with 120 acres of gardens, a garden, a smokehouse and other structures.
While the page acknowledges the presence of slavery, it refers to Lee’s “country house” property. Smith on the board suggested that the county be more active and creative in teaching and programming around that aspect of the site’s history.
Smith said people are weighing various perspectives on whether to rename the Sully District, at town halls on June 2 and Sept. 1. held, among which “the first most important thing I heard in these conversations was the need to heal our community.”
“The best way to do this is to tell the true story of our sometimes complicated and misunderstood history and the character of the Sully District,” he said. “One way to do this is to publicize how the country has been developed, who has benefited and who has been marginalized in the process.”
In addition to retelling the stories told at the Sully Historic Site, the county could highlight historically Black neighborhoods affected by western expansion, similar to efforts to preserve Gum Springs in the Mount Vernon area.
Public hearing on Lee District renaming set
The Franconia Board of Supervisors adopted the new name Lee District on June 28, but the county code has yet to be formally amended to reflect the change.
The board agreed yesterday to hold a public hearing at 4:30 p.m. on December 6.
Supervisor Rodney Lusk noted that the renaming process in his district began well before the RAC began working on its reputation. He proposed to explore a possible change with the board directing staff to prepare an inventory of places with Confederate names on June 23, 2020.
He held the office of the Prytaneum on the 5th of March and on the 5th of Aug. 2021, which involved “hundreds of residents,” according to Lusk.
“Genesis is coming back to a public hearing … in June of 2020 and it comes on the heels of several public meetings, working groups, dedicated personal interviews, and from many, many residents,” Lusk said.
The Franconia District office is currently reviewing options for a grant program to help businesses, non-profits, and community organizations financially affected by climate change, according to its website.