VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Before any more local black history slips away with time, three women are making it their mission to record it.
Edna Hawkins-Hendrix, Dr. Joanne Lucas and Jacqueline Malbon are uncovering hidden history all over Virginia Beach and what was formerly known as Princess Anne County.
“Often, as African Americans, our stories don’t get told,” Lucas said. “It needs to be talked about, it needs to be remembered, it needs to be part of the fabric of Virginia Beach.”
Lucas began delving into black history when she was working on her doctorate. During her time researching, she met Hawkins-Hendrix, who started her own local paper on black history back in the early 1990s.
“I started researching the history here but I couldn’t find anything!” she said. “We do have a history. We do have a history that needs to be told, because we’re not in the history books.”
Hawkins-Hendrix started digging into archives and asking around for photos and personal histories.
In 2017, she and Lucas published their findings in a paper, which is now on file in Virginia Beach libraries.
“This book is the beginning of telling our history, because you can’t go to a library and find anything,” Hawkins-Hendrix said.
Malbon has since joined the team to work on another paper, bringing with her a wealth of family and community history.
“There are some people ordinary people doing extraordinary things that have been left out,” Malbon said.
Even with the three of them working together, Lucas, Malbon and Hawkins-Hendrix know their work is urgent.
“It’s getting thin,” Lucas said. “We’re growing older, so the stories become even more important to tell.”
Hearing those stories is important, too, which is why the team is also hoping to eventually get their work incorporated into Beach schools’ curriculum.
“Our children need to see that they have a race, a connection with a people that want to strive to make life better for them,” Hawkins-Hendrix said. “This is what children need to see, how their ancestors struggled to make it better for them and that they have a proud heritage.”