The photograph above has the following caption: “Play Ball! The game is about to start on Jennie Dean Field. Left to right are: Dernard [sic] Johnson (Arl. Rec. Dept.), captain of the Arl. Rec. Dept., Mr. Pryor (counselor of 153), and Warren Jackson (Mgr. of the Daper Jeans).”
Ernest Johnson was the Supervisor of the Department of Parks’ Negro Recreation Section while the county had a segregated recreation system. In 1964, after a reorganization of the department, he became Supervisor for the county’s recreation centers. Johnson was very involved in the development of the programs under his charge, and during the early 1950s, oversaw photographic documentation of the Negro Recreation Department’s programs. Researchers can now see photographs of dances, plays, sporting teams, parades and other activities for both African-American children and adults; Johnson’s widow generously donated these photographs to the Virginia Room.
Jennie Dean Park, located at 3630 27th Street South, was part of the first group of parks developed by the Department of Recreation when it was formed in 1948. During development, it was referred to as “the county’s presently sole recreation area for colored citizens.” Serving south Arlington and located in the African-American neighborhood Nauck, Jennie Dean Park, with its baseball fields, tennis courts and open areas, gave south Arlingtonians a new place to enjoy outdoor activities, either on their own or through a county-sponsored program. Today, the park has a lighted basketball court and picnic facilities, and is a centerpiece of the area in the warmer months.
What About You?
What do you remember about Jennie Dean Park? How about the programs in the Negro Recreation Department? Did your path cross with Ernest Johnson? We want to know!