In Honor of Black History Month: Notable Figures

In celebration of Black History month this February it is important to note those who shaped our community. Louis Archer, Christyl C. Johnson, and Kwame Alexander are three leaders who influenced local lives through the founding of a school, diversifying science programs, and creating writers and publishing workshops.


Louise Archer grew up in North Carolina and attended Livingstone College. She met and married Romulus C. Archer in Southampton County, VA. In 1922 Archer moved to Washington D.C. where she earned a Bachelor of Science from Morgan State University. From there she became a teacher of a one-room, segregated school in Vienna which, at the time, was named The Vienna Colored School. Archer then focused on creating a successful, educational environment for her students. She organized a parent-teacher association to raise funds for extra teachers, new supplies and eventually a new building. Unfortunately, Archer passed away on April 1, 1948 before the construction was complete. Soon after her passing a petition was signed by the graduating class to rename the school in her honor. From there Louise Archer Elementary School was born.


Another well known name is Kwame Alexander, the author of “The Crossover,” a title that swept through Northern Virginia schools and caught the hearts of many through its riveting story and unique format. Alexander was born in New York City and grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia. Alexander graduated from Virginia Tech as an english major after switching from premedical studies. He is most known for his novel The Crossover (2014) and the sequels Swing (2018) and Rebound (2018). He received multiple awards for his work including the Pat Conroy Legacy Award in 2018 and the John Newbery Medal for The Crossover in 2015. Today Alexander performs poetry worldwide, conducts writing and publishing workshops and serves as a poet-in-residence at schools throughout Northern Virginia.


Another important figure in our community is Christyl Chamblee Johnson. Johnson grew up in Virginia Beach and studied physics at Lincoln University while interning at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. She earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in electrical engineering. Johnson then joined NASA as a lead engineer and project manager overseeing programs out of Langley and developing advanced systems for multiple different missions. Next she managed missions out of the Office of Earth Science before becoming a deputy in the Office of Chief Engineer. From there Johnson joined the Office of Administrator and became the deputy director at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Johnson continues to have a large presence in STEM education for women. She established an overnight program for girls interested in careers in STEM called STEM girls night. She is also currently a proactive member of the board of Women in Tech.