The surrounding neighborhood of Nauck, also known as Green Valley, is one of the oldest African American communities in Arlington County. Its history traces to 1844, when freedman Levi Jones purchased land to build a home and farm here. The neighborhood grew after the Civil War when recently emancipated African Americans settled in the area.
By the 1930s, residents played sports at Green Valley Ball Park, a property then owned by James B. and Lettie L. Peyton. In 1944, Arlington County purchased this property, which became one of the first parks developed by the Arlington County Department of Recreation. This park's name honors Jennie Dean, a freed slave who became a noted advocate and fundraiser for education. In 1894, Dean established the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth to meet the need for vocational and liberal arts education in this area.
In 1952 clay tennis courts were completed and the sport was added to the Negro Section of the Arlington Department of Recreation's offerings. Adult classes were held five nights a week at Four Mile Run; children's daytime classes were also offered.
Also in 1952, flood lights were installed for the hardball diamond and playground equipment was installed on the tot lot.
This 1949 drawing shows a very
ambitious plan for the park which was, at the time, the county's sole recreation area for African American citizens. Plans included a pool, bath house, and a field house, which were never built. In 1950 the park featured one softball and one baseball diamond, three grandstand sections, a basketball court, two horseshoe courts, an outdoor fireplace, two picnic tables, and a drinking fountain.
Opening Day at Jennie Dean Field, ca. 1948
At far left is Ernest Johnson, Supervisor of the Negro Section of the Arlington Department of Recreation.