By 1963, “Belair at Bowie” was thriving. Since its opening in 1961, over 2,000 houses were occupied. But its prosperity hid an uncomfortable truth. William Levitt’s vision of the perfect neighborhood included attractive homes, affordable prices, comfort, and community — but only one type of neighbor. From the moment Levitt arrived in Washington, local activists — and even the government — became aware of the developer’s racist policy: none of the homes in Belair could be sold to people of color.
On January 8, 1867, Congress passed the District of Columbia Suffrage Bill, granting African-American men the right to vote for the first time in U.S. history. D.C.’s black community was ecstatic. But though this was certainly an exciting start, the stakes surrounding the black vote escalated in June 1868, when the two candidates for Washington’s new mayor promised vastly different futures for the city.
Josiah Henson is not a well-known name in American history—or even in the Washington area, where he was enslaved for many years. Born into bondage in Maryland, he lived in Montgomery County before eventually escaping to Canada—there, he served in the army, became a preacher, and established a prosperous settlement for escaped slaves. He was immortalized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, serving as the inspiration for the titular character. But though the novel made him a well-known and popular figure in the nineteenth century, Henson was determined to tell his own story. As he says, the truth is stranger than fiction.
In the early 1960s, theEvening Star called the Columbus Circle fountain in front of Union Station “a ready made swimming pool with ledges, platforms, and friendly statues. It is a grand place to wrestle and splash during the heat of the day, to get the shivers, and to finally recapture the heat by stretching full length on the warm bricks of the surrounding walk. Columbus looks on — pleased and noble.” However, as inviting as it was, swimming in the fountain was technically against Park Police regulations ... which made it the perfectplace to protest Washington’s shortage of accessible swimming pools.
In 1915, The Birth of a Nation was a controversial blockbuster and a D.C. schoolteacher, Angelina Weld Grimké, was a writer unafraid to use her art as form of protest. This is the story of "Rachel," an acclaimed anti-lynching play written in Washington, D.C.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, is dedicated to all the victims of racial terror lynching in this country. The memorial is made of hundreds of steel monuments with the names of all known lynching victims inscribed on the front. A monument representing Alexandria, Virginia contains two names: Joseph McCoy and Benjamin Thomas. This is their story, and our community's history.
As the United States entered World War I, women became a vital part of the war effort. The Navy created a single unit of African-American Yeomanettes, which was assigned to Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard, and quickly made an impression.
For the first time since 1979, the future of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program was in doubt after Sharon Pratt Dixon took the helm for a disgraced Marion Barry in 1991. One of Pratt Dixon's main political objectives was to tackle the enormous budget deficit left in Marion Barry's wake. The Summer Youth Employment Program was one of the first programs to be slashed from the budget which meant, for the first time since 1979, young Washingtonians seeking jobs through the program were not guaranteed a slot. Sensing the tension around the budget cuts, Dixon appealed to the business community to help fill the void, effectively gambling with what might be considered Marion Barry's signature program.
After the 1968 riots ravaged U Street, the famed Lincoln Theatre fell into disrepair. On the evening of February 4, 1994, however,1,200 invited guests attended a reopening gala for the Lincoln following a massive restoration project. For the first time in over 25 years, the burgundy curtain was rising on the Lincoln’s 38-foot-wide stage, and guests in attendance that night said that entering the restored theatre was like “stepping back in time.”
East Arlington and Queen City were two tight-knit African American communities that forged a strong and independent existence despite the perils of Jim Crow. Yet the rapid expansion of federal government and the pressing demands of World War II endangered all that these Arlington residents had built together and, quite literally, wiped it off the map.