One man's fight to save his Va. home first bought by slaves

Some residents in an historic African American community are taking on the local power company.

GAINESVILLE, VA (WUSA9) - Most of the families who live along Carver Road in Gainesville have had this land in their families for several generations.

It's an historic African-American community and it was the first land bought by slaves when slaves were first allowed to own property. Several of the descendants and current residents are in their 80s or 90s.

So, imagine how they feel about the possibility that a power line and substation could be built on their land.

To hear them tell it, this story is about several big guys versus several little guys and there's one man who's been the most vocal in this fight, so we'll let him tell you the story.

"I'm Nathan Grayson from Carver Road. I've been here for 51 years of my life. My property has been in my possession for at least 10 to 12 years. It's been in my family since the 1800s," said Grayson. 

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"I'm a descendent of Lavinia Blackburn Johnson, a freed slave when the Emancipation Proclamation kicked into overdrive. Back in those days, colored folks were actually allowed to be able to purchase property. My aunt was able to purchase property here in Gainesville for $30."

The fight ramped up when Amazon built a data center a couple of miles away. Dominion wants to build a powerline to the data center and one of the proposed routes could run right through Carver Road.

WUSA9 called Dominion and they said they presented several routes to the State Corporation Commission. The SCC is Dominion's regulator and they're the ones that ultimately make the call. Dominion says SCC picked two routes, but the county is blocking one. The second route is the one that goes through Carver Road.

Grayson says he has four children and he'd like to pass the land on to one of them.

"It means the ability to be able to pass on my legacy," he said. 

Grayson says what is happening to him could happen to anyone.

"Don't just get comfortable and feel as though this could not come your way. If you're a citizen of Northern Virginia and with Amazon and Dominion and all the things in development going on here, make sure you stay vigilant and very aware of what's going on because they could come to a door near you very, very, very soon," he said. 

WUSA9 asked Dominion if putting the powerlines on Carver Road would mean Grayson and others would have to move, their spokesperson Chuck Penn said absolutely not.

This project has been trying to get off the ground for three years. There is a third route on the table. It's a mix of underground and overhead lines. But it's about $100 million dollars more expensive than the others so that's off the table for now.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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