Exploring Brochures – Deanwood A Model of Self-Sufficiency in Far Northeast Washington, D.C.

✍️🏼Sophia V. Nelson

I was recently gifted a selection of Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum exhibitions and other DC History brochures. On the surface, these are simply brochures but take a closer look, and you’ll find that they are little windows to the past. Join us as we explore these brochures throughout Black History Month.

The Deanwood History Project brochure – published in 2005. The project interprets the history of the Deanwood neighborhood located in Northeast Washington, DC.

Brochure cover. It features a photo of “residents at the groundbreaking for First Baptist Church of Deanwood’s second building in 1909.”

Image 2: video clip from “Deanwood Oral History Project – A Self Reliant People” produced by HumanitiesDC (full-length video is available on YouTube).

Close up of page 9. The page is titled “Earning Our Daily Bread” and includes details about the types of businesses Deanwood residents owned and operated. Project researchers referred to the Simms Blue Book and National Negro Business and Professional Directory to determine that in 1944 Deanwood had a dry cleaner, filling station, auto repair shops, beauty shops, a record store, and more.

Founder of the National Training School for Women and Girls (1909), Nannie Helen Burroughs is one of several notable African Americans that lived in the Deanwood neighborhood.

One of Washington DC’s oldest African American communities, Deanwood, comprises “Victorian, neoclassical, colonial, revival, prairie, and craftsman” houses. These homes were designed and constructed by African American architects.

Architect H.D. Woodson, for whom a DC High School is named after, resided in the community. Along with a few other investors, H.D. Woodson founded the Universal Development and Loan Company. The group designed and established Suburban Gardens Amusement Park, which catered to African Americans during segregation.

A digital copy of the Deanwood brochure is available on https://planning.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/op/publication/attachments/Deanwood_%2520Brochure.pdf

(Audio Interview+) Ritual and Recall: A Discussion with Anthony McKissic

In this interview with Anthony McKissic, we talk about ritual and recall in Black art and Black spaces. A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, McKissic was born and raised in Washington, DC. A part of his cultural upbringing is rooted in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended Morgan State University and the Maryland Institute College of Art. McKissic is currently pursuing a doctorate in English from Morgan State University while continuing to teach with Baltimore City Schools.

McKissic talks up Blues artists Jr. Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, and Cotton Patch Soul Blues a form of Blues music with roots in Mississippi.

Included here are links to a couple of the Blues artists that McKissic is inspired by:

R.L. Burnside and family. R.L. Burnside on guitar, Burnside’s grandson on drums. Song title, “Boogie Instrumental”

[source: YouTube, Alan Lomax Collection]

“I Came to Praise His Name” by Leo Bud Welch [source: YouTube, Easy Eye Sound]

(Photos) James Brown’s Augusta, Georgia

Street corner. Colorful mural featuring various images of James Brown.
Colorful James Brown mural on Broad Street in Augusta, Georgia

One thing about Augusta, they gonna show mad love for brother James Brown.

Go to “Get up offa that thing” and get down there for the James Brown Augusta, Georgia city tour: jamesbrownfamilyfdn.org

Savannah River. Augusta Canal. Columbia County, Georgia.
Explore DC Virtually with Destination DC's Black History Virtual Itinerary

Explore DC…Virtually!

Submitted By: TP Harris

Washington, DC, capital of the United States, is a compact city of 68 square miles and 700,000 residents nestled on the Potomac River and bordered by the states of Maryland and Virginia. 

Washington, DC, is not a state. It possesses no voting representation in Congress, but in 1973, Congress did enact the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and thirteen-member council for the district. Segregation, poor housing, unemployment and low funding for the public-school system plagued the city. It’s not surprising that discontent surrounding racism and disenfranchisement erupted in 1968 following the assassination of MLK Jr., when four days of riots and civil unrest blazed through the city leaving it scarred but standing. 

I am a native Washingtonian who grew up fully aware of our politically and racially charged predicament. But as with most DC natives, I have always been fervently proud of my “Chocolate City” (an affectionate name signaling our then predominantly African American population). After all, contributors to the “New Negro Renaissance” of the 1920’s and the Black Arts Movement of the 60’s and 70’s hailed from DC, a fact that helped shape my artistic spirit and endeavors.

DC has long been considered a cultural center. In 2018 nearly 22 million domestic tourists arrived ready to see the Lincoln Memorial, the cherry blossoms, The White House, the Kennedy Center, the world class Smithsonian Museums, and a plethora of historic landmarks. But just as important as these notable attractions are the opportunities to explore Black History in DC. 

With DC in Phase Two of its reopening in recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, Museums, galleries and other cultural sites may be open, but with limited capacity. In case you’re not quite ready to venture out, Lindsay Hill of Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the city, has created the Black History DC Virtual Itinerary, a robust four-day virtual travel experience that introduces the 400 year-long struggle for freedom and equality through the region’s hallmark institutions. The Itinerary provides links to virtual historic site tours, lesson plans, audio clips, artworks and more, that immerse you into the Black history of the city. Parents, educators, students, travel buffs and culture enthusiasts will find it a valuable resource for virtual discovery and exploration! 

According to Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC, “During the coronavirus pandemic, Destination DC aims to keep Washington, DC top of mind and provide inspiration for future travel. It is key to ensure potential visitors feel connected to the city and to introduce opportunities to learn about the city’s vibrant historical footprint. The itinerary allows us to cater to students and teachers and facilitate a “travel” and educational experience. While DC is in the spotlight for First Amendment protests while people call for social justice, it is also important to provide an opportunity to showcase Black history. Our tourism team assembled a list of important attractions, tours and topics while researching virtual options that are available.”

Check Out some of my favorite stops featured in the Black History DC Virtual Itinerary:

IMAGE: African American Civil War Memorial courtesy of washington.org.

Near U Street NW, the African American Civil War Memorial is included in Day 4 of the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary. The memorial commemorates the more than 209,000 African-American soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War. Their service helped to end the war and free over four million slaves. The memorial includes a 9-foot-tall bronze statue, finished in 1997, just outside the entrance to the neighborhood’s Metro station.

IMAGE: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Ken Kistler (Creative Commons)

The centerpiece of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King, featuring his likeness carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders, known as the Mountain of Despair. Visitors enter through the Mountain of Despair and tour the memorial moving through the struggles that Dr. King faced during his life highlighted by a 450-foot long inscription wall which features quotes from his speeches, sermons, and writings. The MLK Jr. Memorial is one of several monuments included in Day 2 of the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary.

IMAGE: Frederick Douglass House, Cedar Hill. NPS Photo/Rachel Hendrix

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site preserves and interprets Cedar Hill, where Frederick Douglass lived from 1877 until his death in 1895. The centerpiece of the site is the historic house, which sits on top of a 50-foot hill and eight acres of the original estate. Restored to its 1895 appearance, the house is furnished with original objects that belonged to Frederick Douglass and other household members. The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is included in Day 1 of the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary

IMAGE: U Street sunset courtesy of washington.org

The U street Corridor is anchored by the famed Howard University. Founded in 1867 Howard University is a leading Historically Black University (HBCU) that counts among its talented alumni: E. Franklin Frazier (sociologist), Kwame Ture (activist, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), born Stokely Carmichael), Phylicia Rashad (American Actress and Director), Chadwick Boseman (Actor), Kamala Harris (US Senator) and so many more accomplished African Americans! At the end of the 19th century and for the first half of the 20th century despite segregation, D.C.’s historic Black greater U Street community prospered and built a self-reliant economic, social, civic, and cultural existence. During the height of the Jim Crow era, this influential Black U Street neighborhood of extraordinary achievers once known as “Black Broadway” birthed D.C.’s Black Renaissance and served as a prominent symbol of black culture and sophistication amid racial and political tension in America. The U Street Corridor is included in Day 3 of the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary.

IMAGE: Ben’s Chili Bowl on 14th and U Street courtesy of washington.org

No visit to the U Street Corridor would be complete without a visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl. For 62 years Ben’s has provided an informal gathering place for local residents, tourists, artists and politicians who gather to break bread, talk business and feast on their famous half-smokes. The restaurant fed attendees of the 1963 March on Washington and remained open and unharmed through the 1968 riots. Ben’s is the ultimate example of DC’s ability to endure while remaining a tight knit, supportive community.

IMAGE: Statue of ‘Robert Smalls, U.S. Congressman’ at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Ron Cogswell/CC License 2.0

Since its opening in September 2016, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which chronicles A People’s Journey ~ A Nation’s Story, has attracted more than 5.5 million visitors. The artifacts in NMAAHC’s vast collection span several generations of African American history and culture from Harriet Tubman’s shawl and Emmett Till’s casket to costumes from the Broadway musical The Wiz. NMAAHC is included in Day 1 of the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary.

IMAGE: Black Lives Matter Plaza courtesy of washington.org

On June 5, in support of the predominantly peaceful protests surrounding George Floyd’s tragic murder, DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser became the first to introduce a new mural and rename a two-block section of 16th Street NW Black Lives Matter Plaza. On the street leading to the White House, one encounters a 40-foot high street mural that spans 580 feet and in bright and bold yellow letters reads “Black Lives Matter.” 

Of the mural Mayor Bowser said: “As Washingtonians, we simply all want to be here together in peace to demonstrate that in America, you can peacefully assemble, you can bring grievances to your government, and you can demand change”. The Mayor sees Black Lives Matter Plaza as “a place for healing, strategizing protest and redress.” 

Commending Mayor Bowser for her efforts, Elliott Ferguson remarks “Destination DC is incredibly proud of DC’s Black history and culture, and we make a concerted effort to share ways for visitors to experience it, like the virtual itineraries. I’m proud that our mayor, Muriel Bowser, led the nation in creating Black Lives Matter Plaza, which has been replicated and earned worldwide attention. 

As a proud Washingtonian, I encourage you to use Destination DC’s Black History Virtual Itinerary to experience the historical backdrop that DC is and has always provided for the nation.

Black Museums and Cultural Producers Are Reimagining Outreach in a Time of Economic Uncertainty

By Ayanna Carrington and Sophia V. Nelson

In February, most of the country went into quarantine as a result of the pandemic. We quickly saw what a national shutdown did to our economy as it forced many brick and mortar businesses to close their doors and send their staff and employees home. From restaurants to malls, many businesses had to close without a definite end in sight.

Along with them, our museums and culture sites had to halt as well. We’ve watched from our homes as businesses started to struggle without a source of income due to halted foot traffic. No patrons, meant no source of income for a lot of venues and facilities, especially those that are Black owned. In June of this year, Fortune magazine released a piece by Rey Mashayekhi, “Why are Black-owned businesses twice as likely to close during the pandemic?” highlighting how the pandemic exacerbated systemic racism issues for businesses. The small bailout initiative rollout, showed a disproportionate amount of relief not going to Black businesses even in areas where it showed a high density of BB’s eligible to receive it.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that one of Georgia’s Black history museums, “Sights & Sounds Black Culture Expo Museum”  would be closing. Sights & Sounds, which found its home in North DeKalb Mall, became a landmark.

2017 VisitBlackHistory.com interview with James Horton of Sights & Sounds Black Cultural Expos Museum

Founded in 2014 by James Horton, Mr. Horton (a retired Morehouse employee) never had to charge admission and was solely able to operate the space as a result of donations. Now, in 2020 without the foot traffic and donors, the museum is looking for a new home to house its thousands of artifacts and relics.

The DuSable Museum of African American History, named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable has shared that they are committed to reimagining how to serve its audience. Although admittedly used to operating on a “shoestring budget,” Perri Irmer, DuSable Museum President and CEO says, “the task of modernization is made more difficult by unequal funding of public institutions.”

“These huge disparities in funding are reflective of decades of unfair distribution of public resources, the effects of which are cumulative, in both directions,” Irmer said. “The rich get richer and the poor poorer, even as our work impacts a broader segment of the population, especially in our neighborhoods that are suffering so deeply on so many levels.” (Source: WBEZ, Chicago’s npr Newsource)

There is growth occurring within the field. Black History spaces, tourism offices, historians, and everyday people are producing digital content to stay connected with their audiences. Destination DC recently produced and published the Civil Rights DC Virtual Itinerary. Available for download at no cost, users are encouraged to spend 4-days taking in a curated list of digital DC Black History experiences. The virtual itinerary includes a list of digital experiences produced by places like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Frederick Douglass House, National Portrait Gallery, the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum just to name a few.

Other advancements include the movement to increase the amount of African-Americans working in Black History related careers. Just yesterday, a George Washington University professor admitted that she has been falsely claiming to be of African-American descent. According to a story published by The Guardian, George Washington University professor Jessica A. Krug received financial support from institutions like the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This is revealed in a time when Black institutions, organizations, and professionals are fighting to get the resources needed to sustain careers in the history and public history sector. A response to this challenge are organizations like the Society of Black Archaeologists and the Greening Youth Foundation. Both organizations are committed to engaging underrepresented youth and emerging professionals, connecting participants with professional development opportunities in conservation, archaeology, and history-related professions.

Then we have stories like the Carver Museum in Austin, Texas which has entered the planning phase for expansion. A project that has been 22 years in the making moves forward with their planned additions to the Carver Museum in East Austin, Texas. The Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center serves as a repository for historical and cultural materials related to Austin, Texas, and Travis County’s African-American history. Planned additions to the museum include improvements to outdoor spaces as well as indoor art studio spaces and expanded community programming. This demonstrates that there are Black museums with the plan and to sustain and serve their publics.

While we are aware of the issues, we here at VisitBlackHistory.com are focused on current and long term solutions for how we can best support and in some cases save our Black History spaces? Black museums and historic sites are just a few of the Black institutions that have had to make a dramatic pivot in response to the pandemic. The financial ruin has presented itself concurrently at a time (alongside the public outcry against Police Brutality) when the roles of these cultural institutions are more essential than ever. We can’t allow them to disappear as they tell the story of our existence. So what should we do? Below you will find a few suggestions on how to support Black History spaces and content producers now:

  1. Attend online programming. Black History spaces and content producers are producing a wealth of online digital content. Send us an email, letting us know of the online programming you are participating in, so we can share that information with the VisitBlackHistory.com community.
  2. Become a friend of a museum. Your generous donation, some starting as low as $25, could also earn you special member benefits. See if your local Black History or art museum has membership and individual giving opportunities.
  3. If you are a community organizer, consider how your work may relate to the work being performed by organizations like the Society of Black Archaeologists. See if there is an opportunity to collaborate or even have representatives engage with your audience as a guest speaker. Collaborate and make magic happen!
  4. Volunteer. Even in the age of social distancing, there is still a need for volunteers. Volunteers should think of how they can support the production of digital experiences (blog writing, data entry, social media management, graphic design are a few ideas that come to mind).

How are you supporting Black History spaces? Share your story for a chance to win a VisitBlackHistory.com swag bag. Winning entries will have their testimony published. Be sure to include photos and videos along with your written response. Send to info@visitblackhistory.com.

Today’s Google Doodle: Cartoonist, Jackie Ormes

The work of cartoonist, Jackie Ormes

Jackie Ormes is today’s #googledoodle – an African American cartoonist, this clip from “One tenth of a nation. Achievements” highlights Jackie Ormes’s career.

One tenth of a nation. Achievements” video includes Eslanda of Eslanda’s Bridal Services (Washington, DC); Verna Hickman of Golden State Insurance Company (Los Angeles, CA); food editor for Ebony Magazine, Freda DeKnight, and others.