The Hidden Black History Of One Of The Nation’s Busiest Airports

dulles airport at night
Adé Hennis
March 26, 2024

In the 1850s, free Black people worked hard to establish the community of Willard, building businesses despite minimal resources. But their hard work would be swept away by the government’s greed.

The village of Willard, Virginia, no longer exists; it was destroyed to build Dulles International Airport. And because this historic Black village is now under the tarmac, archaeologists can’t access the site to learn about it or tell its story.

Willard was a small, vibrant, united community. But all that changed in 1958 when more than 80 landowners were sent letters ordering them to leave. Shortly after that, 300 of the community’s buildings were demolished into dust.

Much of Willard’s history has been lost to researchers, and many have the impression that the history of this Black community was intentionally buried. But the descendants of the people who lived in Willard refuse to let its memory die.

The destruction of the Willard community shows the government won’t hesitate to erase our history. We must protect and preserve our stories so our history can never be buried again. Do you know the histories of Black communities in your area?

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