African American History & Culture
Cedar Hill, the residence of Frederick Douglass – Located in historic “Old Anacostia” in S.E., this was Douglass’ hilltop home with the spectacular view of the city of Washington. Orator and famed abolitionist of the 19th century, and a confidant of Abraham Lincoln, Douglass played a critical role in recruiting blacks to join the Union Army. After the war and its aftermath, he lived a comfortable life here for 18 years.
The National Archives – In the Archives are the original documents of the “Declaration of Independence”, the “Constitution”, and the “Emancipation Proclamation”, which is sometimes on periodic display, often during February, “Black History Month”, along with with more than 3 billion other records of American history.
Lincoln Park, The Emancipation Memorial – Located at the west end of Lincoln Park, the Emancipation Memorial was dedicated on April 4th, 1876, and paid for by the donations of African Americans from across the country. The statue depicts Abraham Lincoln extending the proclamation to a slave who has broken his chains and is rising from his knees.
Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial – The first statue erected to a woman in a public park, it was dedicated July 10, 1974, the ninety-ninth anniversary of her birth. Bethune, a recognized national leader during the years between the wars, became an adviser to President Roosevelt, and, in 1936, the first black woman to head a federal office. She was founder and president of Bethune-Cookman College, and founder and president of The National Council of Negro women.
National Training School for Women and Girls – In 1909, Nannie Helen Burroughs opened an industrial school for girls, offering practical training in gardening, domestic work, and vocational skills. Later, the school became part of the Districts’ public school system. Burroughs was a strong advocate of black cultural heritage, dedicating her life to the advancement of African Americans.
The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School – Formerly known as M Street High School, the school was founded in 1870 as “The Preparatory High School for Negro Youth.” One of the first high schools for African Americans, it represented an important development in the city’s education system. The school produced a high percentage of college graduates; and, many of its alumni became prominent educators and public figures.
The Dr. Ernest E. Just Residence – Dr. Ernest E. Just (August 14, 1883 – October 27, 1941) was a pioneering African American biologist, academic, and science writer. Just’s primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. Just also left an everlasting impression in the African American community for his pursuit of higher education in spite of all the discrimination he faced. He was one of the four founding members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Founders Library – The centerpiece of Howard University campus, this neo-Georgian building was designed by Albert Cassell, who established and developed the university’s 20-year campus master plan. The building also houses the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, one of the world’s largest collections of material relating to the history of blacks in the U.S., Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The Howard Theater – The first legitimate theater for blacks in the nation, it opened in the summer of 1910. The auditorium booked shows, acts, and circuses for nearly 20 years, closing due the stock market crash of 1929. In 1931 with the gala reopening of the Theater, jazz great Duke Ellington brought back the glamor and prestige of performing at the Howard. Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Lena Horne, and Sammy Davis, Jr. were just a few of the many well-known acts and entertainers who performed there.
The African American Civil War Memorial – This memorial commemorates the service of the 209,145 African-American soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union in the United States Civil War. The sculpture, The Spirit of Freedom, a 9-foot bronze statue, was created by sculptor Ed Hamilton. The memorial includes a walking area with curved panel short walls inscribed with the names of the men who served in the war.
T Street Post Office – This postal station was an unique response to segregation. Denied window assignments at the main post office, a compromise was the establishment of the T Street station, staffed entirely by blacks. It became the one of the most successful stations in the city by 1951.
Whitelaw Hotel – Completed in 1913, the hotel was the city’s 1st first-class hotel and apartment building for black visitors and residents. It was renovated into apartments in the 1970’s.
Industrial Bank of Washington – Known as the wage earners bank, Industrial was founded in 1913 by pioneer black financier, John Whitelaw Lewis. At the time blacks, could open accounts but not get loans from white banks. Blacks flocked to the new bank, which, in a few short years, had 16,000 depositors, becoming one of the leading black banks in the U.S.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – Located in West Potomac Park, at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin, this memorial is on a sight line linking the Lincoln Memorial to the northwest and the Jefferson Memorial to the southeast. Although, not the first memorial to an African American in Washington, D.C., Dr. King is the first African American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall, and only the fourth non-President to be memorialized in such a way.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church – An historic landmark, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is an architectural jewel, designed by famed 19th-century architect James Renwick. The first black Protestant Episcopal Church in the District, twenty-eight black men and women met in 1867 to form their own congregation – St. Mary’s Chapel for Colored People. The chapel building was secured with the help of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who donated lumber from an army hospital chapel.
Ben’s Chili Bowl – A well-known restaurant in D.C., located at 1213 U Street, in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest D.C., Ben’s Chili Bowl was founded on August 22, 1958 by Ben Ali, a Trinidadian-born immigrant, and his fiancee, Virginia-born Virginia Rollins. The establishment is known for its famous patrons (President Obama, Bill Cosby, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and many more) as much as its known for its cuisine.