Today’s health disparities reflect deep social divides in Northern Virginia. Decades of public health research have shown that education, income, housing, and other social conditions are powerful determinants of life expectancy and disease rates. Disparities in these living conditions, along with the harmful health effects of chronic exposure to discrimination, are products of the history recounted here and are chiefly responsible for the large gaps in life expectancy that exist today in Northern Virginia.
A new report funded by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, Deeply Rooted: History’s Lessons for Equity in Northern Virginia, chronicles Black experiences in Northern Virginia over the past 400 years. It is based on historical research conducted by the Center on Society and Health in consultation with a 14-member advisory panel and with assistance from local libraries and private collections. This report builds on a previous report, Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia, in which the Center identified census tracts in Northern Virginia with poor health outcomes. This project aims to explore the historical roots of those “islands of disadvantage.” This report generally cites statistics for Northern Virginia or, when appropriate, the Commonwealth. National data are cited only when local statistics were unavailable.