"Built by the People Themselves" explores the processes of community development and suburbanization in Arlington County, Virginia. Arlington is a small county located in northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

This site is a piece of the doctoral dissertation for Dr. Lindsey Bestebreurtje at George Mason University. Together these works trace the processes of community development, suburbanization, and segregation that Arlingtonians, black and white, used to create lasting communities that met their own needs and reflected their own preferences. Since its earliest suburban development, Arlington was made up of diverse neighborhoods, each with divergent, competing visions for the area’s future.

The exploration of the process of creating and defending communities within the suburban environment will analyze how the physical environment of Arlington reflected social tensions as competitions over race, class, space, and aesthetics literally built a physical manifestation of a county divided under Jim Crow. This study tracks the roles of the government, community institutions, and planning.

Dr. Bestebreurtje holds a Ph.D. in History with specialization in African American community development and suburbanization in the nineteenth and twentieth century American South. Dr. Bestebreurtje has served as a Curatorial Assistant with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture since 2015. She received her BA in History and Government from the College of William and Mary in 2008 and her MA in Applied/Public History from George Mason University in 2011.

In addition to her academic experience, Dr. Bestebreurtje has worked in the field of public history in the Washington, D.C. area since 2010. Her previous public history experience includes time with the National Park Service (NPS), the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS), George Mason University Libraries, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and Tudor Place Historic House and Gardens.

Dr. Bestebreurtje is passionate about public history and interpretation, believing that a decolonization of information is absolutely essential work. Constantly asking “preservation of what, for whom?” is a central tenant in her historical work; driving her to consider current and future audiences, need, and to challenge inherent biases of both herself and others in an ever-shifting environment with the aim to expand inclusion at every chance.

John F. Kennedy famously said is his inaugural address “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” challenging every American to contribute in some way to the public good. Dr. Bestebreurtje feels passionately in this broad and inclusive definition of service, believing it is her duty and pleasure to educate, question, challenge, and preserve history and historic materials in their various forms.

This same desire to expand audience and outreach has led Dr. Bestebreurtje to focus on New Media, Digital Public History, and Social Media in both her Doctoral education and field experience. Developing apps, websites, digital exhibitions, social media accounts and campaigns, audio tours, and other diverse platforms for varied public audiences, Dr. Bestebreurtje seeks to expand her content’s reach through DH.