Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park

Dublin Core


Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park




Even as Fairfax County Public Schools were integrating in the 1960s, community pools and tennis courts were still largely closed to African Americans. Many area swim and tennis clubs had language in their by-laws setting out procedures for evaluating the “appropriateness” of prospective applicants to the neighborhood parks. Attorneys for the recreation association first used the defense that they were a private club and therefore could admit or exclude members according to their own wishes. They later claimed that the basis of the exclusion was financial rather than racial. They feared that offering Blacks member-ship would cause many existing members to resign. Justice Thurgood Marshall was part of the Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling that denying membership on a racial basis was illegal housing discrimination. The ruling has been used as a precedent in numerous cases across the U.S. The marker was approved by Virginia DHR in December 2021.

Planned Marker Text:

Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc.
In 1965, Paul E. Sullivan rented one of his two nearby homes to Theodore R. Freeman Jr. When Sullivan attempted to transfer a pool membership to the Freeman family, the board of Little Hunting Park denied the request as the Freemans were Black. They also terminated the Sullivans’ membership for protesting. Both families filed a lawsuit in 1966 and pursued the case through several appeals. In Dec. 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., that the exclusion of an African American family from membership in a community recreational association constituted illegal housing discrimination. The case led to the desegregation of neighborhood clubs across the U.S.

Site Location Item Type Metadata


TBD, Proposed location: Little Hunting Park Pool and Tennis Club is located at 7000 Canterbury Ln. Alexandria, VA 22307


Mount Vernon



“Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park,” Fairfax County African American History Inventory, accessed June 24, 2024,