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Metropolitan Park commemorates Queen City with art

By Luke Fichter

The origins and evolution of Queen City

Queen City's roots trace back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beginning as part of the larger lands owned by the descendants of George Mason. With the growth of Arlington, these lands were subdivided, giving rise to various communities, including Queen City, which emerged as a predominantly African American neighborhood.

As a hub of African American culture, Queen City boasted its own institutions, from churches like the Mount Olive Baptist Church to the Queen City School, vital for education during the segregation era.

A tribute in art

The art installation in Metropolitan Park symbolizes a critical moment in Queen City's history: the 1941 seizure of Black-owned land by the federal government for the Pentagon's construction. This event marked a disruption in the community, leading to the displacement of 903 residents.

The memorial features 903 handmade ceramic vessels, each representing one of the displaced individuals. These vessels, shaped and colored like a drop of water, stand as a powerful reminder of the impact of urban development on communities.

Artist Nekisha Durrett commissioned 17 Black ceramists from across the United States to create these vessels. This collective effort not only honors the individuals affected, but also symbolizes the broader African American experience and the enduring spirit of community.

Community collaboration

Supported by partners including Arlington County, the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, the Arlington Historical Society, and the Center for Local History at Arlington Public Library, this project exemplifies a communal effort to remember and honor the past. It’s a testament to the importance of preserving local history and acknowledging the narratives often overlooked.

Living legacy

For visitors and residents alike, the art piece in Metropolitan Park is more than just an installation; it's a portal to understanding Queen City's history. It encourages us to reflect on the complexities of urban development and the resilience of communities facing adversity. The history of Queen City, marked by both struggle and solidarity, is an integral part of Arlington's heritage.