On May 15, 1918, Lt. George Boyle took off from Potomac Park as the inaugural flight in the United States’ first continuous airmail service. However, hours later, Boyle was climbing out of a crash-landed plane in Waldorf, MD, miles away from his intended destination. But Boyle wasn’t entirely to blame for the airmail’s rocky start – or was he?
In an imposing brick building at 235 2nd Street, NE on Capitol Hill, time stands still. It is home to over 70 young people living, working, and learning in Washington. This is Thompson-Markward Hall, a boarding house that has been a home for young women in Washington since 1833. But its residents haven’t always been elite graduate students or ladder-climbing interns. Women’s work in Washington has changed dramatically since the 1800s, but Thompson-Markward Hall has remained a necessity.
Activist Hugo Deffner came to Washington in 1957 to accept an award for his work in promoting accessible architecture. However, he discovered a city entirely inaccessible to wheelchair users and other disabled people. Over the following decades, a combination of tireless activism and legislation transformed Washington into one of the most accessible cities in America.
Many international dignitaries were invited to attend the unknown soldier burial on Armistice Day in 1921, honoring those who had died in anonymity during World War I. However, the invitation of one of these guests, Chief Plenty Coups of the Crow tribe, carried a greater significance. His attendance represented the Native American contribution to the Great War as well as the contentious relationship between Native Americans and the United States government at the turn of the twentieth century.
In June 1981, Black Deaf leaders gathered in Washington to sew the seeds of an organization that would have a profound impact on the Black Deaf community. After centuries of exclusion in both Black and Deaf spaces, organizers came together to make a space of their own. With goals to educate, empower, and strengthen the community, this conference led a call for Black inclusion and leadership in Deaf organizations locally and nationally.
Military leadership, including President Lincoln, saw the potential of military balloons, and the public believed they would change the landscape of the Civil War, aiding the Union’s eventual success. Only two years later though, what would be known as the “Balloon Corps” would be dissolved. So, what ended the use of this promising and successful aerial endeavor?
When Japanese immigrant Kojiro Inoue first moved to the Washington area in 1971, D.C. had some Japanese restaurants but couldn’t boast of any that offered sushi. It was for good reason—hardly anyone seemed interested in the idea of eating raw fish. “Sushi wasn’t popular,” explained Inoue to The Washington Post years later. So when Inoue decided to start a small sushi bar within Sakura Place, a Japanese restaurant in Silver Spring, the endeavor wasn’t without its risks. However, Inoue saw potential.
In the 1960s, Arthur Ashe paid a visit to inner-city Washington to participate in a “block party” tennis demonstration. The experience left a lasting impact on him. He would return to Washington and, with the help of friends, create a professional tournament in D.C. which would make the sport more accessible to inner-city African Americans.
Ford’s Theatre is remembered today as the site of a national tragedy that changed the course of American history, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. However, just 28 years later, a second tragedy occurred there that claimed 22 lives and injured many more.
One of just two Black women in the White House Press Corps during the 1950s and 1960s, Ethel Payne repeatedly demonstrated her determination to deliver the truth to her readers -- informed by her experience. Responding the criticism that she should be more objective, Payne responded, “I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased…when it comes to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.”