Developer Robert E. Simon bought land in the western area of Fairfax County with his development company Palindrome, Inc. in March 1961. He began planning for a new community that brought together the best aspects of rural and urban life. The town he created was Reston, and it was one of the first areas to welcome diversity and to have an open housing policy. Many of the surrounding areas at the time were not open to equal housing opportunity, making Reston a great choice for many lower class and minority groups. In 1969, African American residents formed a group called Reston Black Focus to promote an understanding of African American culture among fellow Reston residents.
Reston Black Focus was a group of black Restonians who wanted to make sure black people could participate in their town as citizens and preserve black culture and lifestyles. Since black families had limited living choices, many looked to these ‘new towns’ for housing, schooling, and recreation away from the racism encumbered in ‘old’ urban and suburban towns.
In their original document under “Basic Premises” it stated:
“Black middle class cannot avoid the negative ramifications of political and economic exploitation of black people…We must come to better understand ourselves to present to our children a non-racist vision of who they are and their relationships to each other and to the positive development of America…A new town must, if it is to be truly open, have all kinds of people in positive encounters with each other to lose their fears of the unknown other” (Page 2-3).
In the “Activity” section, they list four main goals for the group (Page 3):
- Education and cultural development
- Rearing of black children
- Concerns of black Restonians with the development of Reston
- Relationships among black Restonians
Even though Reston had promise of a new and more positive living environment, there were still many struggles in and around the area.
News article from the Globe on 9/19/1974. The article references the shooting of a black man, Felix Rohls, by a white police officer, John Mueller. Rohls had been pulled over for a traffic violation and then fatally shot by Mueller. The FBI was called in to investigate after complaints were made by the NAACP. Article from the Reston Black Focus Records, Collection # C0137, Box 4, Folder 28, Page 2/8 & 8/8 of “New Town,” Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. The link to “New Town” http://mars.gmu.edu/handle/1920/9506
News article from the Reston Times from the 1960’s. Article stated that Betty Nester, the manager at a Seven-Eleven, denied customer service, made racial comments, and denied a refund to a group of teenage boys because the were black. The boys later brought their parents to the store and they were again denied service, resulting in police officers being called from both parties in which the officers determined the incident had not been about race. Article from the Reston Black Focus Records, Collection # C0137, Box 4, Folder 30, “Racial Incident,” Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. The link to “Racial Incident” http://mars.gmu.edu/handle/1920/9508.
More information about the Reston Black Focus records can be found on the Special Collections Research Center website at http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/restonblackfocus.html. Additionally, the digitized documents can be explored on our digital repository at http://digilib.gmu.edu/dspace/handle/1920/228 by typing Reston Black Focus into the search box.