African American Jurors

Dublin Core


African American Jurors




In 1935 at least two juries were established in Fairfax County with African American members. This was significant because Blacks were usually excluded from serving on juries in Virginia. Press reports indicated that these were the first African Americans to serve on a Fairfax County jury since 1883.

Exclusion of African Americans from juries because of their race was unconstitutional and could result in miscarriages of justice. In the 1930s two highly publicized criminal trials, the Commonwealth of Virginia v. Murphy and the Scottsboro Boys trial in Alabama, drew attention to the dangers Black defendants faced when judged by all-White juries. In Fairfax, an all-Black grand jury and a mixed-raced trial jury were established after protests from an attorney defending two African American women accused of arson.

May 24,1935 The first African Americans selected to be on a jury in Fairfax County were selected from the Fairfax County Colored Citizens Association. They were Foreman Alexander L. White, Sideburn, Otis Wade, Falls Church, Atanar Payne, Fairfax, John R. Pearson, Fairfax, Joseph Collins, Merrifield, Henry Page, Fairfax, and Ollie W. Tinner, Falls Church. Fairfax County Colored Citizens Association anniversary Pamphlet 1928-1941, page 5


“Negro Grand Jury,” Smithfield Times, Volume 15, Number 7, 30 May 1935. Accessed via Library of Virginia, Virginia Chronicles website.
“Novel Spectacle, Special Grand Jury, All Negroes, to Sit in Circuit Court, Friday,” Fairfax Herald, May 24, 1935 p.1. Microfilm. Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.
“Negro Grand Jury Finds Arson Bills,” Associated Press. New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 26, 1935, p. 14. Accessed via Genealogy Bank website.
“Colored Grand Jury,” Fairfax Herald, May 31, 1935, p. 4. Microfilm. Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.
“Negro Jurors Indict Women,” NY Amsterdam News, June 1, 1935, p. 5. Accessed via ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers website, District of Columbia Public Library.
“An Innovation. Colored Men Drawn on Current Court Trial Jury List,” Fairfax Herald, Nov 22, 1935, p. 1. Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library.
“Put Three Negroes on Richmond [sic] Panel,” New York Amsterdam News, November 30, 1935. Accessed via ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers website, District of Columbia Public Library.

Event Item Type Metadata


Fairfax County Courthouse, Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax City





“African American Jurors,” Fairfax County African American History Inventory, accessed April 19, 2024,