Martha Lindsey Bestebreurtje

Martha Lindsey Bestebreurtje

Martha Lindsey Bestebreurtje

African American History, Community Development, the Built Environment, New Media, New South, Public History, Interpretation

Lindsey Bestebreurtje holds a Ph.D. in History from George Mason University with specialization in African American community development and suburbanization in the American South during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Currently, Lindsey works in the curatorial department at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her dissertation "Built By the People Themselves: African American Community Development in Arlington, Virginia from Civil War through Civil Rights" traces the strategies black Arlingtonians used to create lasting communities that met their own needs and reflected their own preferences when possible within the context of white domination in a Jim Crow society

In addition to her academic experience, Lindsey has worked in the field of public history in the Washington, D.C. area since 2010. Her previous work experience includes serving as a historian with the National Park Service, the Historic American Landscape Survey, George Mason University Libraries, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and Tudor Place Historic House and Gardens.


Current Research

Lindsey is currently working on permanent, rotating, and traveling exhibitions for the Smithsonian on topics including place, community development, and Reconstruction.

Additionally, she is adapting her dissertation, “Built By the People Themselves: African American Community Development in Arlington, Virginia, from Civil War through Civil Rights,” into a book. This work explores the processes of community formation and suburbanization in the Jim Crow South.

Selected Publications

Lindsey Bestebreurtje, “Beyond the Plantation: Freedmen, Social Experimentation, and African American Community Development in Freedman’s Village, 1863 1900,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 126, No. 3 (2018).

Lindsey Bestebreurtje, "A View from Hall's Hill: African American Community Development in Arlington." Arlington Historical Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Oct. 2015).

M.L. Bestebreurtje, “Historic American Landscape Survey: Ellis Island,” Library of Congress (Forthcoming). 

Grants and Fellowships

George Mason University, Provost's Award, 2016.

George Mason University, Summer Research Fellowship, 2016. (Declined)

Virginia Historical Society, Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and Award, 2015, 2016.

George Mason University, Graduate Assistantship and Tuition Scholarship, 2011-2014.

National Park Service, Excellence in Interpretation Award, 2011, 2012, 2013.

National Council for Public History, 2014 Outstanding Public History Project, “Histories of the National Mall” project.

Slate Magazine, Most Compelling Digital History Exhibits and Archives of 2014, “Histories of the National Mall” project.


PhD, History, George Mason University, 2017.

Master of Arts, Applied History, George Mason University, 2011.

Bachelor of Arts, History & Government, The College of William and Mary, 2008.

Recent Presentations

Universities, Slavery, Public Memory, and the Built Landscape, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2017. Panelist presenting paper “Freedman’s Village: African American Community Building, Reconstruction, and Interpretation at National Sites” as a part of the “Slavery, Freedpeople, and the Landscape” panel.

41st Annual Conference on D.C. Historical Studies, Carnegie Library, Washington, D.C., November 23, 2014. Tour leader discussing suburbanization, segregation, and community development in Arlington County, Virginia.

Fifty Years of Reston Past and Future, Reston Museum, Reston, Virginia, April 2014. Speaker at the symposium discussing race relations and residential segregation in the twentieth century US.

40th Annual Conference on D.C. Historical Studies, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., November 16, 2013. Panelist discussing the impacts of social opinions and the built environment on protests on the National Mall.

7th Annual University of Maryland History Graduate Student Association Conference, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, February 24, 2012. Presented paper titled “Sabine Hall, Gunston Hall, and Tudor Place: An Examination of Race, Space, and Architectural Divides in the U.S.”