The Story of the Founding of AAHA
In the late 1980s, Karen Hughes White and Karen King Lavore began researching their family lines. As they got knee deep in geneology, their friendship blossomed as they shared their common interest. They tracked down documents, sources… anything to shed light on the lives of those who came before. They sought to join the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, but they would have had to start a local chapter, as well as pay national dues, which would have been difficult for many of the local Black residents of Fauquier County. So with the support of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and their network, Karen Hughes White and her co-founder Karen King Lavore decided to start their own organization, the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County.
Both Karens started doing exhibits, giving talks around Fauquier County. They abstracted Free Negro Registers, started files on the information that they were collecting. It wasn't long before their work was being noticed. They got a call from Plains Redevelopment, asking them if they wanted to share a site with Marshall Heritage ( another local historical entity focused on the legacy of John Marshall). That plan fell through, but in the fall of 1996, Plains Redevelopment offered AAHA a different space at no cost. On June 14, 1997 AAHA was opened.
The grand opening was well attended, including entities like Marshall Heritage. Black residents who had been worried about a potential backlash felt relieved to see the integrated support. Members of Fauquier’s Black communities contributed photos, artifacts and family stories to AAHA and embraced AAHA as a museum charged with their stories, histories and collections.
The AAHA now serves as an invaluable resource for those researching their own family history or the history of the region. The 4,269 square foot museum on the lower level is home to 1,634 artifacts detailing the rich history of Fauquier County’s Black residents. It provides an interactive experience for school and community groups. The AAHA’s 2276 sq. feet auditorium hosts special events — a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday for instance, or a family celebration, recognizing a family line.
The AAHA is an invaluable resource for individuals, churches, real estate researchers and other historical associations whose missions match that of the AAHA.
"Today, it (AAHA) may be one of the best archives of local information, genealogy, artifacts and history of any community. Linking generations so that we can learn from the past to change the future…"
— Chris Miller
Aging Together Executive Director, Fauquier Now