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To the teacher:

The Balch Library and its documents provide rich information about the history of African Americans in antebellum Loudoun and afterwards, including the legal impact of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Further, the library documents the struggles of blacks and other civil rights leaders to insure the full equality promised by these post-Civil War additions to the U.S. Constitution. The Balch Library, for its efforts to preserve and document the history of African Americans in this region, has been named as a member of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom

Our goal is to:

Provide some of the primary documents and excerpts from secondary sources available at the Balch Library that will be useful to you as you prepare teaching units on various aspects of African American history; moreover, all of the materials at this site tell the story of African American history from a Loudoun County perspective. While we offer only a “glimpse” of the African American’s history in Loudoun, we have included at least five documents to support each of the eight Essential Understandings listed below. As we have time we will add other documents, so that eventually the teacher will have a rich source of information on this important aspect of American history.

A Special Thanks

The Balch Library Staff
The Friends of the Thomas Balch Library Black History Committee
The Loudoun Museum
The Afro-American Historical Association
Loudoun Times-Mirror
The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
Jerry Michael
Denise Oliver-Velez
Arlene Moore Janney
Charles Poland
Cheryl Sadowski
John and Bronwen Souders

Essential Understandings:

Click here to view supporting documents for all of the Essential Understandings. For supporting documents for an individual Essential Understanding, click on the “see details” prompt at the end of each listing below.


1. Until the Emancipation Proclamation and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, Virginia was a slave state. Although the relationship between slaves and their owners cannot be described in simple terms, with job descriptions and treatment varying from place to place, slaves were by definition not free, and were considered property. (See details)
2. Although the institution of slavery was firmly in place in Loudoun, some people in the county had no slaves at all; further, some groups, such as the Society of Friends, actively opposed it.(See details)
3. In ante-bellum Virginia, some blacks were free. However, free blacks were subject to “black laws” enacted by the Virginia Legislature. While some of these laws protected free blacks, most limited their freedom. Despite these limiting conditions, some free blacks worked to resist the enslavement of their brethren. (See details)

The Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) freed some slaves, but the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution freed all. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments insured the citizenship of all persons born in the United States. The documents from the time immediately after the Civil War reflect efforts by various groups to solve post-war problems and adapt to the new political, social, and economic order. Nevertheless, the adjustments of both blacks and whites to this reconstruction environment proved challenging. (See details)

5. Although amendments to the Constitution that promised blacks the same rights as other citizens, blacks were often denied the right to vote, restricted in their access to public places, and required by law to attend segregated schools that were inferior to those offered to whites. Despite these limiting conditions, black communities developed strong institutions of support, including the church. (See details)
6. By the mid-1930s, certain activist African American organizations were stepping up efforts to ensure that the rights described in the U.S. Constitution were realized. (See details)
7. During the 1950s and 60s, Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress provided support for the language inherent in the 14th and 15th amendments. These decisions galvanized local civil rights and community groups as they continued efforts to guarantee “equal protection under the law” for American citizens. (See details)
8. During times of war and peace, many Loudoun County African Americans have served their nation honorably in the United States armed services. (See details)

Loudoun County teachers of these courses will find the material at this site very useful:

Relevant Learning Objectives

Special Resources

  • The Thomas Balch Library
  • A Chronology of African American History in Loudoun County
  • The Underground Railroad Network in Loudoun County: Members
  • A Brief History of African American Communities in Loudoun County with Map
  • Vocabulary
  • Relevant Sections of the U.S. Constitution
  • Relevant Documents including Presidential Orders, Supreme Court Decisions and Legislation
  • Bibliography

For comments or questions, please contact the Glimpse coordinator
About the development of Glimpse
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