Whose history

| No Comments
I got a call today about something not related to the Truxton Circle history project, but the topic wound up hitting it, because it is the all consuming thing in my life right now. Well that and canning. I mentioned that the project sort of started out of spite. Many years ago I went to a neighborhood meeting and an old oldtimer was going on about the neighborhood's history, her version of it, and it didn't sound right to me, so I went looking for proof.  At this point in my research, I'm saying Truxton Circle, and I am calling it that, has a multi-racial, multi-ethnic history. In some parts and at some times it was white, or black or Italian. And at times there was the odd Chinese household, Russian Jewish household, possibly bi-racial household, German Jewish household, Irish households and so on, and who are we to ignore their presence? To call this neighborhood and possibly the rest of Shaw a historically black neighborhood is just part of the story and a recent part of the story.
In the Washngton Post's Root, author Clinton Yates explores this theme of history and ownership in "'Nouveau-Columbusing' black Washington" where he writes:

the wildest is the claim I heard that the District's been Chocolate City "forever." Actually, Washington's demographic status as majority black, by strict percentage points, only goes back about 50 years.
That looks about right. For the U Street area that would be 70 years. Forgive me for not formatting and just thowing this old map of the African American distribution in the city here:
Distribution of Negro Population by Census, 1930
The purple means 75% or more, but it doesn't mean 100%, which means there are other people in the minority. Who are we to say that minority can't stay or to ignore their presence.
I've recently finished trudging through The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson, where the author looks at those who left southern states for northern urban centers. One way to look at this map is seeing where possibly those migrants landed in the border feeder city of DC. It might take another study to see if the people who demographically made Shaw a black neighborhood in the beginning were those hard working migrants and the children they bore. In the end of Wilkerson's book, she attaches the urban problems of out of wedlock births, substance abuse and employment problems to the native born as the migrants where hard working, church goin', penny saving, sacrificing, married or family oriented folks. So I could look at it as the ones being displaced by the current demographic trends are the 2nd and 3rd and so on generations of DC natives who did not inherit their migratory forebears strengths and qualities. But that just sounds mean, especially as a person who migrated from the South (yes, Central Florida is the South... Go Gators).
But skimming my data, it looks like a lot of southern migrants made their way here to this part of Shaw, and some did well. You either do well here, find some other city to flourish or head back to your homestate. Black Picket Fences left me depressed about the generations that followed those who migrated north too. There might be something to it, but I don't want to think about it right now.

Leave a comment