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Memorializing the Enslaved at Ball-Sellers House

October 28, 2023 @ 11:00 am 12:00 pm

The Arlington Historical Society (AHS) and Black Heritage Museum of Arlington (BHMA) are dedicating their first “stumbling stones” or bronze markers honoring the lives of three individuals once enslaved at what is now the Ball-Sellers House. 

The AHS-BHMA project: Memorializing the Enslaved in Arlington, 1669-1895

These first commemorative markers are the result of research conducted by the AHS-BHMA project: Memorializing the Enslaved in Arlington, 1669-1865, which is committed to recovering historical truths and restoring the humanity of enslaved individuals. The Ball-Sellers House, the oldest house in Arlington and owned and operated as a free museum by AHS, is proud to be the first property in Arlington to have a commemorative marker to the enslaved.

Three enslaved people will be honored:

Nancy, born ca. 1775 and died sometime between 1835 and 1838.
Male (name unknown), born ca. 1806 and whose date of death is unknown.
Male (name unknown), born 1844 and whose date of death is unknown.

The Carlin family bought the Ball-Sellers House from the estate of John Ball in 1772 and various family members lived there until 1887. Elizabeth Carlin, the widow of William who was the first Carlin owner, enslaved Nancy, and an unnamed male there in the 1820s. Her probate records reveal that Nancy, as an old woman, “waited on” Elizabeth until Elizabeth’s death in 1834. The 1850 census tells us that Letitia Carlin, the widow of James the son 0f William and second Carlin owner of the house, enslaved the second unnamed male. Carlin is the namesake of Glencarlyn, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the county.

Very few records exist in Arlington that document enslaved individuals and even fewer provide names. Yet, after two years of research, Memorializing the Enslaved in Arlington has shed light on these early Americans who contributed so much to the agricultural, infrastructural, and cultural development of our county.

Join us as we dedicate the first in a series of memorial plaques that will be placed throughout the county. The Memorializing the Enslaved in Arlington team, APS students and teachers, others involved in the project will offer brief remarks about this important milestone.

For more information contact AHS at 


Arlington Historical Society and Ball-Sellers House

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Ball-Sellers House

5620 3rd Street
Arlington, Virginia 22204 United States
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