When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, cities like Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma often come to mind. However, there is one city that played a crucial role in this historic movement that often goes overlooked - Manassas Park, VA.Located in Northern Virginia, Manassas Park was originally part of Prince William County. It was not until 1957 that it became an independent city. The city's name comes from the Manassas Gap Railroad, which ran through the area in the 1850s.
Manassas Park has a rich history, with its roots dating back to the Civil War. The First and Second Battles of Manassas (also known as Bull Run) were fought in this area, making it a significant location during the war. After the Civil War, Manassas Park became a small farming community. However, with the arrival of the railroad and the establishment of Camp A.
A. Humphreys (now known as Fort Belvoir) in nearby Fairfax County, the city began to grow and develop.During the 1950s and 1960s, Manassas Park was a segregated city like many others in the United States. African Americans were not allowed to attend the same schools or use the same facilities as their white counterparts. However, this did not stop the African American community in Manassas Park from fighting for their rights.
In 1960, a group of students from Manassas High School (now known as Manassas Park High School) staged a sit-in at a local Woolworth's store, demanding to be served at the lunch counter. This was one of the first sit-ins in Virginia and helped spark a wave of similar protests across the state. The students' actions caught the attention of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a prominent civil rights organization. SNCC sent representatives to Manassas Park to help organize and support the students' efforts.In 1961, the Manassas Park Improvement Association was formed, with the goal of fighting for equal rights and opportunities for African Americans in the city.
The association held rallies, protests, and boycotts to bring attention to the issue of segregation in Manassas Park.The actions of the students and community members in Manassas Park had a significant impact on the Civil Rights Movement. Their sit-ins and protests helped bring attention to the issue of segregation in Northern Virginia and inspired others to take action. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Manassas Park to speak at a rally organized by the Manassas Park Improvement Association.
His presence brought national attention to the city and its fight for civil rights. The efforts of the Manassas Park Improvement Association also led to changes within the city. In 1964, the city's schools were officially desegregated, and African American students were allowed to attend previously all-white schools.Today, Manassas Park is a diverse and inclusive community. The city's role in the Civil Rights Movement is not forgotten, and there are several reminders of its history throughout the city.
The Manassas Park Community Center, which was once the site of Manassas High School, has a display dedicated to the students who participated in the sit-ins. The city also has a Civil Rights Memorial that honors those who fought for equal rights in Manassas Park. Furthermore, the Manassas Park Improvement Association is still active today, working to promote diversity and equality within the city.Manassas Park may not be as well-known as other cities involved in this historic movement but its impact was just as significant. The actions of its citizens helped bring attention to segregation in Northern Virginia and played an important role in advancing civil rights across America.
Today, Manassas Park continues to honor its history and work towards creating an inclusive community for all.