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, and highlights African American culture and history.

"Black Broadway"—U Street Corridor

The African-American Civil War Memorial at 10th and U streets is the perfect place to start; it has its own Metro stop. More than 200,000 names of black soldiers who fought for their freedom surround the small memorial. A block west sits Bohemian Caverns, a landmark restaurant and lounge that once hosted such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and native son Duke Ellington. You can still catch live jazz here; check the schedule and return in the evening. Across 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. One block south and another west you'll find the 12th Street YMCA, the oldest black Y in the country (1853). Head back to U Street to explore the African-American Civil War Museum, featuring wonderful photographs from the era and an extensive on-site database for searching individual soldiers. Next, grab a half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl. A D.C. landmark, Ben's refused to close its doors during the fierce riots that followed the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While most of U Street was being destroyed, Ben's fed the policemen 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 "colored-only" theaters. Given the area's history, it's probably little wonder that 15th and U marked the epicenter of the spontaneous celebration that erupted in the streets following the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president.

North of U Street

Venture north one block 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 few steps north is sprawling Meridian Hill (or Malcolm X) Park, where a number of civil rights marches have originated over the years. If you’re lucky enough to be strolling through on a Sunday, don’t miss the lively drum circle that forms spontaneously in the afternoon. Cutting through the park to 16th Street, 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, past some beautiful working embassies, you'll find All Souls Unitarian Church. Its pastor in the 1940s, Reverend A. Powell Davies, led the push to desegregate D.C. schools. President William Taft and Adlai Stevenson were once members, and the church bell was cast by the son of Paul Revere.

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