Black History Walk
A walk along U Street and the eastern rim of Adams Morgan gives a taste of D.C. that most tourists never get. This tour through "Black Broadway" bounces from lively commercial streets brimming with hip bars, cafés, and boutiques to quiet, tree-lined, residential blocks.
As it highlights African American culture and history, this walk complements a visit to the amazing National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016 on the National Mall.
"Black Broadway"—U Street Corridor
The Howard Theatre at T Street and Florida Avenue is a good place to start. Opened in 1910, this landmark of Black culture found its way onto the National Register of Historic Places for hosting some of the greatest musical acts of the last century—a list that includes such notables as Ella Fitzgerald and native son Duke Ellington in the 1930s and, more recently, Lena Horne, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye. All but destroyed in 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the theater was renovated beautifully in 2012 and now features live acts almost nightly. A short hike west, at Vermont and U Streets, sits the African American Civil War Memorial, where the names of more than 200,000 Black soldiers who fought for their freedom are inscribed. The adjacent African American Civil War Museum features wonderful photographs from the era and an extensive on-site database for searching individual soldiers. A block west at 2000 11th Street is Washington Industrial Bank, which thrived by offering African Americans a service that others in the city wouldn't: the option to borrow money. Next, grab a half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl. This D.C. landmark refused to close its doors during the fierce riots that followed King's assassination. While most of U Street was being destroyed, Ben's fed the police officers and Black activists trying to keep order. Next door is the Lincoln Theater, another exceptional jazz venue and, from 1922 until desegregation, one of the largest and most elegant historically Black theaters. Two blocks north up 13th Street NW and a quick left on W Street will bring you to the Anthony Bowen Branch YMCA, the oldest Black Y in the country (1853), recently completely overhauled.
North of U Street
Venture a block southwest to 15th and V to marvel at St. Augustine's Catholic Church—a gorgeous, two-tower cathedral now home to a Black congregation that seceded from its segregated church (St. Matthews) in 1858. Feel free to walk inside to glimpse the striking stained-glass portrait of a Black St. Augustine and St. Monica. A block north on 15th Street awaits sprawling Meridian Hill (or Malcolm X) Park, where a number of civil rights marches have originated over the years. Just north of the park, you'll spot Meridian Hill Hall, Howard University's first coed dorm. Alumni of the elite African American school include Thurgood Marshall and Toni Morrison. Continuing north, you'll find All Souls Unitarian Church at 1500 Harvard Street NW. Its pastor in the 1940s, Reverend A. Powell Davies, led the push to desegregate D.C. schools.
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