It’s February so that means it’s Black History Month. I think I will make this an annual thing, where I look at the “Father of Black History” Carter G. Woodson. He picked a week in February for Black History Week, then that week turned into a month and ta-da we are in Black History Month.
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 historic house.
To celebrate the month I had pondered the idea of looking at his 1912 book The History of the Negro Church, because last year I did a deep dive of his Mis-Education of the Negro. There are some problems. For one the first book I ordered had type so small I could not read it. When I did order a book these older eyes could read, I discovered the book was very boring. I have discovered that The History of the Negro Church is in the public domain (yay), on the Project Gutenberg site and may have the Kindle read it to me. I seriously looked at Fivver for audiobook narrators. On the other hand I could just wait for the next round of DC Humanities grants and have them chip in for an audiobook production of Woodson’s public domain works. Feel free to steal this idea.
Instead this year, I’ll do one chapter or more chapters (not the whole book) of The History of the Negro Church, a second review of Mis-Education, other Dr. Woodson related posts and a Truxton Circle related African American history book that was pretty good. I may do a few WSIC posts and one or two 1930 Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle.
Around about the early part of the year I go pecking about looking for the speech Rev. Martin Luther King Jr gave in Shaw. And I can never find it when I look.
Today I was looking for a 1957 Church survey for a church that was at 1520 3rd St NW. But I can’t find that, but when I was looking for it, guess what I found? Yes, the King speech.
It seems it was part of a newsletter published by MICCO (Model Inner City Community Organization) run by Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy from 812 S St NW, which is New Bethel Baptist Church. As you can see from the above flier, Dr. King had an event in Shaw on March 12, 1967 and the newsletter was published the next day.
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.
Looking at the survey, it was a black church, still is, and very active. It was 50% white collar at the time of the survey, with the next biggest group being skilled labor. When asked about relocating, the respondent wrote that they believed African Americans were still moving to the area, but if they had to relocate it would be to NE DC where the majority of their congregants lived. Yeah, this was a commuter church in 1957, and I guess it remains so in the current year.
I mentioned this one earlier this month, well its school, as it is one of 3 private schools in Shaw. Anywho, St. Augustine is at 1717 15th St NW, on the upper end of the neighborhood.
It was a big church with a chunk of the parishioners (50%) in the urban renewal survey area. I’m a convert to the church, but the sense I get is back then, when this survey was conducted, there were parish districts and you were supposed to go to the church for the district you lived in. Another interesting thing about the demographics is that it had a tiny white population, 3%, while the rest was Black. It is still a predominately African American Catholic Church.
So there was that story about the Go-Go music being blasted at 7th and Florida. And more stories about Go-Go and the changing neighborhood, as if neighborhoods don’t change. Neighborhoods, cities, cultures change. There used to be jazz in Shaw. Good jazz, as in the kind you can dance to. But that kind of jazz is not something you’ll find listed at the Howard Theater, the only reason to go to the Dunbar Theater is to bank with Wells Fargo, and Bohemian Caverns is dark.
The jazz I like is gone and it probably won’t come back to Shaw.
I can’t blame gentrification. I can’t even blame the riots. What is to blame is what comes to all forms of popular and even niche genres, tastes and audiences change. What has befallen the jazz I like (I’m ignoring that other stuff that calls itself jazz) could easily fall upon Go-Go. The audience that grew up with it gets older, younger audiences are more into something else. The artists change, they may want to pursue or try new things. The market changes, as people stop buying CDs and CD players and Spotify/Pandora-rify their music. Also, I’ve been told Go-Go is best experienced live. For me, the artists changed and started creating undancable, unsingable jazz that decoupled itself from popular music, and younger audiences were getting into Rock-n-Roll.
So, for now, there is a phone store that sells Go-Go CDs on the side and blasts Go-Go music outside. Considering record stores do more closing than opening, I’m going to guess the money is in being a phone store. It’s unreasonable to expect the neighborhood to support one genre of music. If the neighborhood’s history of musical support is anything to go by, the best one can hope for is having a few buildings, maybe a street named after artists, and half-aszed attempts by city bureaucrats at music appreciation. Businesses are going to do what they need to do to stay in business. Customers are going to buy what they want to buy, in the format they want to purchase. And all of that will bring the end of Go-Go, not a neighbor who wants the music turned down.
Okay, I need to regularly post this topic. Because DC is a city that attracts people from elsewhere, the nuances of the city’s history get lost over time with each new fresh face.
There is a piece in the Washington Post, a “Where we live” real estate article about Truxton Circle. There is a line that refers to other neighborhoods, Bloomingdale and Shaw. I’m only going to nit pix here and state, once again, Truxton Circle is in Shaw. I thought I mentioned it to the writer to reached out to me for contacts, when I warned her about the group of residents who hate the name ‘Truxton Circle’.
Look at this map above. Let’s point out a few of the neighbhorhoods covered by this circa 1968 map of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area. U Street
Let’s start in the north with the top of the map where we have the area currently known as U Street. Formally this was the city’s Black Broadway. What are the boundaries? Beats me. Let’s say U St and Florida Ave NW.
Truxton Circle (most)
Coming over the east in a clockwise direction, we have the NW section of Truxton Circle. There is a NE section that I ignore most of the time. That north east section is not part of the original Shaw neighborhood.
Mt. Vernon Square (part)
Funny thing, there are parts of Mt. Vernon Square, or at least the Mt. Vernon Square Historic District (map, PDF) in Truxton Circle. And there are parts of Mt. Vernon Sq. outside of Shaw. This is in the southeastern part of Shaw and bordering Shaw. There is an overlapping. Don’t freak out, it’s okay.
Now this is the section that these days gets touted as the current boundaries of Shaw, although I don’t know who redrew them. Mid-city contains within it, the small historic districts of Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. It also has the most awesome restaurants.
Finishing our loop around Shaw is Logan Circle to the west. According to the Logan Circle Community Association the boundaries are: “S Street to the north, K Street to the south, 9th Street to the east, and 16th Street to the west.”
The last section of Derek Hyra’s book Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City are just two chapters, seven and eight. There isn’t much to add than what I’ve already wrote on the previous two sections, except for some minor disagreements with the author. My major problems were in Part II.
The minor disagreements are in regards to what is and who is missing. For Truxton Circle at least there was a spike in the growth of “Other,” people who were not exclusively Black or exclusively White, these people are missing. So are middle class African Americans. Gen X and Baby Boomers aren’t players in this book either, though both made the neighborhood more palatable for the Millennials (born between 1980-2000 according to Hyra) who are all over the damned place now.
I understand an author, especially when you’re not writing a huge tome, has to be exclusive in choosing what and what not to write about. It just appears to me that some things were left out because they didn’t fit or did not support the author’s thesis. Yes, the new residents fought for dog parks, but they also fought to improve people parks too, something that isn’t explored.
Lastly. Hyra in his last chapter mentions , “Neutral ‘third spaces’ may facilitate the development of bridging social capital.” Yes, agreed, however we get back to what is not mentioned. Places like Ben’s Chili Bowl and Busboy’s & Poet’s are mentioned but I think the author is blinded by appearances. There are places in Shaw that have something for everyone, one place being the O Street Giant, ’cause everyone has to get groceries. I have never eaten at Busboys & Poets and have been to Ben’s less than a handful of times in my 17 years of living here, but I’ve been to the Giant hundreds of times. The story of the O Street Giant transforming from the Ghetto Giant to the Gentrified Giant is an interesting one, not explored in this book. I have seen my neighbors there, I’ve seen my fellow parishioners there. It serves the people buying grass fed beef with a black card and those buying family pack chicken with an EBT. The Giant is truly an inclusive third space. Instead he, and various other writers like to write up how horrible or exclusionary coffee shops, $12 cocktail and $30+ entree restaurants, restaurants & coffee shops that did not exist 15 years ago, some not even 5-10 years ago, are.
So continuing from yesterdays Part I, Part II contains chapters 4-6 in Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City and the part that contained a factual error that made me question the whole book.
The error? Someone who is Hispanic and has now been here long enough not to be a new comer, is described once as White and a new comer. To be fair the person described himself as a new comer at the time Hyra was researching the book. Time has passed, but books do take a good while to get published. However the racial thing, that a bigger error, especially when you have the issues of race and the book is pushing a particular narrative. In the case of the racially misidentified person, it appears the story is of a “White” newbie replacing a longtime Black leader. But the case was the Black person being replaced moved, or was moving, to be with his wife ( a total surprise to me, didn’t know Jim got married), so the new comer filled in. Yes, it may seem a little more sinister if the new comer is White, which he wasn’t. If you had seen him, you would not confuse him with a White guy.
I should mention Part II is where he brings out his “Living the Wire” idea. The evidence is a little flimsy appearing to be based on one civic association social where White residents regaled in stories of crime. We all have our coping mechanisms. I do remember those who would do the same, and notably those White residents who did, immediately moved when they became parents. Parents do not want to ‘Live the Wire.’ Those who did want to live dangerously, eventually moved. Besides anyone who wants to live The Wire, needs only to move 40 miles north, where housing is way cheaper in Baltimore.