There is a saying, that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And then there is another saying, “This time it’s different.” Both can be true.
In 1968 Shaw, and some other areas, experienced an uprising, a riot, a civil disturbance, or whatever you choose to call it. Buildings were burnt out, stores were looted, windows were broken and it took 30 years for the neighborhood to come back.
I am concerned about the neighborhood and what may happen after Election Day. I’ve been predicting presidential elections correctly since I was 10. Y’all ain’t gonna like the results, so I’m taking Desctructo-kid and hanging out with friends in the boonies of Maryland for a while. I could be wrong. If so, it’s a little vacation. [UPDATE 11/9/20. It looks like my prediction streak hit a snag. Well as long as the people are happy, so be it.]
Our block fared okay in 1968. It should be okay. However in 1968 businesses on the corner of New Jersey and Rhode Island were damaged.
Most of the damage Shaw experienced in 1968 were along her commercial corridors along 14th, 9th, and 7th Streets. Black businesses were hit as well as white and Asian businesses and property.
The destruction brought neither justice or peace. It did hasten building public and affordable housing because it also made neighborhood property cheaper. The thing with urban renewal is that the government buying the property gets to value to the property. And in minority areas, the government doesn’t pay top dollar.
Yes, this time it is different. Shaw isn’t a slum. But this time there are struggling businesses on the edge, as there was in 1968. COVID-19 has made it a sad Darwinist contest of survival of the fittest businesses. I just hope we never see the days of burned out husks of buildings and rows of empty storefronts again.
Okay I had to look at the old Shaw map to figure out if this was in Mount Vernon Square or Shaw or both. The answer is both. The Mount Vernon Square historical district overlaps with parts of Shaw.
The the other question was, “Is this the church on New Jersey Ave?” Yup, 3rd Street, New Jersey Ave, same diff apparently. That little section between Morgan and New York Avenue, has northbound traffic going on New Jersey and southbound traffic on 3rd Street.
I looked up the address on Google and according to Streetview, the True Gospel Baptist Church is at that spot now. And just for my own records the SSL now is 0303-0052. This page barely has any useful information, except the name of the then pastor Rev. Truman Dixon who lived on the premises at 1104 W Street NW.
Okay so there is a write up in the Washington Post about Shaw. I’m debating about giving Alex Padro a hard time about the east boundary being New Jersey Avenue. Their graphic has Shaw’s western boundary at 13th St NW and the southern part just eats up Mt. Vernon . The boundaries of Shaw keep changing with each article so, there is that. This is a Real Estate article, and they quote Padro and Ibrahim Mumin, so I’m not going to nit pick much, except for this point.
It has been a long while since I checked in on the DC Archives. I have opinions, but as I get older I know I should keep them to myself, for professional reasons, as my day job is in the field. What I will say is that I find it frustrating that there isn’t more available to the public on-line, the long promised new building has yet to be built, there are records that logically should be open that aren’t, and DC government agencies seem to be unclear as to where their records are.
Okay, now that’s off my chest.
I checked in on the DC Archives on-line to see if there was any improvement since the last time I went looking for something. The answer was yes, there was some improvement. One of my biggest complaints was that they didn’t have a decent catalog. You see many small archives are at universities and colleges, so their stuff sometimes sit on school library website, and librarians are super duper stars at getting information to the public. State archives vary. Some states are better than others, but there is usually a catalog. There are companies out there, go to an ALA conference, or even SAA and you will find companies that have catalogs with public sides, so the public can see what the heck you have. But if you’re too cheap/wary for that, there is always throwing PDFs of finding aids on your website.
One of those fine PDFs is for the Shaw School Urban Renewal District Case Files, 1967-1968. I have heard tale of this survey. What would be interesting is to see what buildings were found to be derelict in the 1968 survey that still stands today and has been renovated and if any had been demolished. What I find most useful is the list, on the last page, of all the squares in the Shaw neighborhood.
It’s February so that means it’s Black History Month. And eventually somebody says something about February being the shortest month of the year and African Americans getting short shrift. Which is really ignorant because the “Father of Black History” Carter G. Woodson picked a week in February for Black History Week. That week turned into a month and that brings us to where we are. He could have picked another week in another month, but he didn’t. Please shaddap about February.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson (PhD, Harvard, 1912) noticed there was a lack of history documenting and telling the story of Black Americans in America. So he saw a problem and then fixed it. Quoting the NPS biography of Dr. Woodson, “The public knew very little about the role of African Americans in American history, and schools were not including African American history in their curriculum. He worked tirelessly throughout his life to remedy this problem, becoming nationally recognized as “the Father of Black History.” ”
Dr. Woodson lived and worked at 1538 9th Street NW, which is in Shaw. This would explain the statue, if you missed it, at 9th and Rhode Island Avenue NW. And the National Park Service complex at his historic home’s location. And of course, there are programs going on this month to celebrate the man. On February 15th and 29th at 1PM an actor will lead a 3 hour tour (a three hour tour) in the life of Dr. Woodson. The historic house is regularly open 3 days a week, Thursday through Saturday, 9 to 5.
To my lawyer friends, don’t worry. The lawyer in this story is long gone and the profession has long moved on from the kind of exploitation this chick engaged in.
History has a billion stories. Many stories fit in or tie in with the grand narratives, some better than others. This story involves a African American widow who lived in Shaw and a bad questionably moral white female lawyer.
July 16, 1916 Washington Post reported the death of Sergent Major George R. Garnett, a retiree from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, who died at home at 1743 11th St NW in Shaw at the age of 63. Two days later there were funeral arrangements at Metropolitan Baptist Church and he was buried at Arlington Cemetery. He left behind his wife Virginia (nee Robb) Garnett.
A few days after his death, Ms. Rose M. Sefton, listed in the city directory as an Claim Agent, visited Virginia Garnett to “help” her get a widows pension. Looking at the pension record it the story gets really confusing. Sefton with a notary in tow, came over to 11th St. NW to get Mrs. Garnett to sign papers to allow Sefton to collect a $25 attorney’s fee for “helping” the widow. Sefton was not entitled to $25, which would have come out of whatever pension Garnett received. Mrs. Garnett claimed that she did not have her reading glasses on the day Sefton visited and thus could not read all the papers she signed that day. Later the Pension office investigated and suggested Sefton be disbarred. However, I’m not sure Sefton ever passed the bar to begin with. In the pension papers she calls herself an attorney.
Sefton’s actions just seem shady. She swoops in before the body is cold, gets the widow to sign a bunch of papers to collect the maximum fee (it should have been $15 dollars) which was to be taken out of the widow’s pension. It’s not like Garnett went looking Sefton.
I can’t find evidence of Mrs. Garnett’s death. I did find her in the 1931 City Directory. She had moved from 11th Street to 930 P Street NW. Ms. Sefton died on Boxing Day in 1921 and is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery.
I have been looking for a speech I had of Martin Luther King’s made on March 13, 1967 for Model Inner City Community Organization (MICCO). Because the King Center is famous for cracking down on what they believe to be their copyright, I did not post the whole speech.
Of course, we all recognize that if we are ultimately to improve psychological and physical conditions for minorities there must be total elimination of ghettoes and the establishment of a truly integrated society. In the meantime, however, all those working for economic and social justice are forced to address themselves to interim programs which, while not totally changing the situation, will nevertheless bring about improvement in the lives of those forced to live in ghettoes. And so, whiel [sic] many of those steps may lead to limited integration, those which do not must clearly be seen as interim steps until the objective situation makes a more fundamental approach.
… Labor, Housing and the Office of Economic Opportunity, ought to work with the people of Shaw in developing, coordinating and concentrating their various programs upon social and economic problems of this area.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at a March 13, 1967 rally for Shaw
Dr. King has become an avatar, where people have projected on their own visions of what he’s supposed to be and ignoring who he actually was. Maybe some organization’s crackdown on other’s printing his words played a part in that. Dr. King preached integration but it seems so many now are pushing for segregation and celebrating the ghetto that King wanted to eliminate.
Another item from the “pile”, this is another post 1968 riot for a Shaw business. Carl R. Webb owned Personality Studio and Gift Shop at 1618 7th Street NW, Washington, DC, in Shaw. Currently that same location is for some medical supply store.
The store experienced extensive glass damage and theft. It appears the owner Mr. Webb, an African American man, decided to remain after the riot but was planning on changing his shop into a Ben Franklin store, a kind of five and dime.