What makes Shaw, Shaw?

I posted something on Shaw Rez’s blog that made me think I should just post here instead of ranting there.
What unites us? What makes Shaw, Shaw, and not Glover Park or Fort Lincoln or Avondale? What makes the stuff that falls outside of the borders (and for the sake of argument I’m sticking with every neighborhood that falls within the border, whether they like it or not) different and within the same? And does it hold true over time?
The easy answer, which I’ve been pointing to over and over and over again like a broken record is the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area hashed out by the Redevelopment Land Agency and the National Capital Planning Commission and any other government body that wanted to ‘fix’ the area in the 60s and 70s. But there is a past, preceding the creation of those borders, and possibly the creation of the school’s borders, with various notables ‘passing through’ and buildings of various sorts being built for various sorts for various reasons. And in the past and the present there is the hard answer of what makes Shaw, Shaw.
Just sticking with the present, what makes Shaw, Shaw? I’m going to say there is probably not one answer. And I’m saying that because I know I’m going to leave something out. First thing that comes to mind, right now, lunchtime on a Wednesday, is the amount of ‘affordable’ and public housing that exists with private and market rate housing in the same space. That is part of the character because it puts people of various income levels together in the same neighborhood. It puts services and service organizations that serve and advocate for the poor, in the neighborhood. If you want to talk history, you can find bits of or ghosts of“the Great Society” in Shaw. Anyway, those things play a part in the character.
There is more but my lunch hour is over with.

6 thoughts on “What makes Shaw, Shaw?”

  1. who cares about a 1973 map…now if it were an 1873 map i’d care. shaw junior high was named after a white general which cannot be undone. i dont recognize Shaw and as a matter of fact…i dont even like to say it. i call it up yonder! 🙂

  2. Huh; I’d never thought of not-calling this area Shaw. So what did, say, Carter Woodson call this area? “Old City,” as appears on tax records?

  3. i’d say neighborhoods had names not strict boundaries…helltown, midcity, franklin square, old city, blueberry hills, westminster, ledroit park, bloomingdale, TC, swampoodle…list goes on.

  4. Mari,
    Thank you for the dialogue. Shaw started out as the name of a failed urban renewal project, as you so ably point out. The intervening arson and looting in 1968 put the skids on the grandiose plans, and the burned out schlock shops and row houses were eventually replaced with low-rent HUD-subsidized, church-sponsored housing and few viable legitimate businesses. It remained a a high crime, violent part of the city. Shaw is not a positive name, no matter how many banners of famous Black people Shaw Main Streets puts up. Peripheral communities in the original Shaw Urban Renewal Area adopted new monikers to avoid the negative Shaw connotation: Logan Circle, Blagden Alley, Mount Vernon. No matter how you package it, Shaw refers to a historic slum with strong residual racial connotations.

  5. I’m pretty much attached to the name Shaw (note title of blog).
    I see our unity and what we hold in common is our struggle to deal with that which carved Shaw from the 2nd District. We are still trying to get over and deal with the riots, the govt/nonprofit /faith based programs to fix the problems, and the market forces that allowed for the good/bad/ugly. So has Logan and U Street completely shed the scar of that unfortunate history?
    Oh and the racial history. Currently, that is what’s selling. It’s our notable asset. We can claim Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, who is black. And the asset on U Street is the Lincoln Theater and then the Dunbar, and a few houses lived in by black notables, notice a theme here? The package sells. Even the slum add-on sells when you clean it up. Kids can do the gritty urban thing without the hassle of being stuck somewhere where there are absolutely no amenities. I get to blog about gentrification. And as Jimbo likes to note (complain about/ note, same diff), certain folk get to rehab absolute dumps unfit for humans and brag about it at parties. Oh wait, I’m doing that too.

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