african american history in washington d.c


It was the early 1940s, when 12-year-old Charles “Bob” Martin, a Washington, D.C., kid who had always loved the water, decided to try to rent a boat. So he headed down to the waterfront to ask about the cost. A white man working there told him it would cost $5 to reserve a rowboat, plus a quarter for every hour on the water.

The next week Martin headed back to the waterfront with money he’d cobbled together from his job at a local pharmacy. He saw the same man with the boats for rent.

What happened next remains seared into his memory.

“This man broke my heart,” he said. “I said, ‘I got the quarter,’ and the man looked at me, and I’m quoting him now. He says: 'I don’t know why you keep running around down here to rent a boat, because we do not rent these boats to no — the n-word — so you can just leave here and just not even come back.’ ”

The encounter broke Martin’s heart. But not his resolve. “I’m going home crying to my mom,” Martin remembers. “I said 'Mom, I’m gonna get me a boat.’ ”

Around that same time, just upriver from where Martin was turned away, Lewis T. Green, a shop teacher at a D.C. high school, was trying to create a boat club for himself and other black boaters in the city. Green asked federal officials for permission to use land for his fledgling group, but didn’t have much luck. He eventually got the attention of the philanthropist Mary McLeod Bethune, who in turn contacted her friend, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was then-first lady of the United States. Soon enough, the Interior Department allowed Green the use of a small plot by the railroad tracks near the Anacostia River. It’s where Seafarers Boat Club — now Seafarers Yacht Club — began and where it still stands.

They Built Their Own Boating 'Shangri-La.’ Preserving It May Be Just As Hard

Photos: Beck Harlan

Dorothy Height U.S. Postal Stamp

Born in Virginia in 1912, Dorothy Height was a leader in addressing the rights of both women and African Americans as the president of the National Council of Negro Women. In the 1990s, she drew young people into her cause in the war against drugs, illiteracy and unemployment. The numerous honors bestowed upon her include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004). She died on April 20, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

Louise Daniel Hutchinson (1928-2014) was an important contributor to the preservation of African American history. She was a driving force behind the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington D.C., created specifically with the intention of bringing culture closer to the particular neighbourhood.

She started working for the Smithsonian in 1971, researching  African American portraits. In 1974, she became the Historian and Director of Research for the Anacostia Museum, expanding its collections and developing its oral history programme. Some exhibitions she brought to the museum include Out of Africa: From West Kingdoms to Colonization, and Black Women: Achievements Against the Odds.
#LovingDay: 50 Years After The Loving Verdict, A Photo Essay Looks Back On Their Love
Remembering the couple who brought down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 U.S. states.

Monday, June 12, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which quashed anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states around the nation, ushering restrictions against interracial marriage to the wrong side of history.

The date is now remembered as Loving Day in honor of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who defied the state’s ability to dictate the terms of their love based on their skin color. Mildred, who was of African American and Native American descent, and Richard, who was white, wed in 1958 in Washington D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in their native rural Virginia, as well as 15 other Southern U.S. states.

When the Lovings returned to Virginia, however, local police raided their home one early morning after being tipped off by another resident. They declared the Lovings’ marriage license invalid within the scope of the state, placing the couple under arrest.

The Lovings pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and were sentenced to one year in prison. A judge later agreed to suspend the sentence if Mildred and Richard left Virginia and did not return for 25 years.

The couple relocated to Washington, D.C., but they did not end their story there. In 1964, attorneys from the ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings, requesting the charges and sentences against the Lovings be dropped. The Lovings appealed the local ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, where their sentence was unanimously overturned in 1967.

“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Two years before this verdict, in the spring of 1965, Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet spent time with the Lovings, as well as their family and friends, documenting the lives of a couple whose love had transcended the everyday to become the stuff of legends.

Villet’s photo essay, titled “The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait,” captures Mildred and Richard when word of their civil rights battle was spreading throughout the country and the fate of their relationship remained unknown. Through black-and-white images, the photographer captures the subtle glances, spurts of laughter and moments of quiet determination that, together, comprise a love story whose power echoes today.

We commemorate the Lovings’ bravery and tenacity in the face of prejudice and the systems of white supremacy. Villet’s photos help us remember the Lovings not just for what they represented, but who they were. The simple moments of connection, support and companionship that provided the strength to change the world.

The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait is available on Amazon.

On This Day: The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Funeral: King Family and Friends, © Burk Uzzle, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  

On this day in 1968, shortly after 6 p.m., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony outside the now memorialized Lorraine Motel room 306.

Photo: SCLC pallbearers stand over casket of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at Morehouse College on April 12, 1968, Atlanta, GA, © Ernest C. Withers Trust, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Anthony Decaneas, Decaneas Archive, and Ernest C. Withers Trust.

In the early months of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked on a campaign to lobby on behalf of the poor. While planning a march in Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass further Civil Rights legislation, King was called to Memphis, Tennessee to assist in a sanitation workers’ strike. African American sanitation workers were protesting for equal pay and improved working conditions. On April 3rd, after his flight to Memphis was delayed due to a bomb threat, King spoke at Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Here he gave his last speech, known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon. King stated the famous words:

“…I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King’s death evoked sadness nationwide and many African Americans were not only in mourning, but were outraged. A series of riots followed in more than 100 cities. Subsequently, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, known as the Fair Housing Act, was passed and signed on April 11th.

Photo: Memorial March after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Main Street, Memphis, TN, April 8, 1968, © Ernest C. Withers Trust, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Anthony Decaneas, Decaneas Archive, and Ernest C. Withers Trust.

Watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. make his famous last speech:


QUEENS OF THE BALL [Click Image To Enlarge]

Portraits of debutantes of The Links, Incorporated, Chapter of Washington, D.C., circa 1960′s. The Links are one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women of color, who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

A noose was found inside the African American History Museum

Why can’t we have nice things…

Originally posted by n-wordbelike

Marian Anderson Sings at the Lincoln Memorial

Photo: American contralto Marian Anderson performs in front of 75,000 spectators in Potomac Park. Finnish accompanist Kosti Vehanen is on the piano.

“She carried herself in the way she wanted to be seen.“ - Dwandalyn Reece, Curator of Music and Performing Arts, NMAAHC 

Marian Anderson was the first African American soloist to sing at the New York Metropolitan Opera on January 7, 1955. During her long career, Anderson broke many barriers as an African American opera singer, and was often denied performance venues due to racial segregation during the mid-twentieth century. #OnThisDay in 1939, Anderson famously sung on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to a crowd of over 75,000 people, when she was denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall.

Photo: Shantung silk jacket (redesigned in 1993) and black velvet skirt worn by Marian Anderson. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Ginette DePreist in memory of James DePreist.

Learn more about Anderson’s historic moment and the artifacts in our collection:  

avengershavethetardis  asked:


THANK YOU!!!!! And if I remember correctly you said you wanted Buckboy not Steve so I’ll write that, but if I’m wrong let me know.

Okay so I really like the idea of Bucky sticking up for his small black girlfriend when somebody says or does something fucked up so here ya go

Originally posted by thespoilerwitchblog

They were having an amazing night. Ever since Bucky had gotten back from cryo, y/n had been on a mission to show him everything he missed during his time as the Winter Soldier. She had borrowed from Steve’s list and added more onto it. They had done everything on the list that involved New York and y/n was eager to bring him to Washington D.C. 

The walk to the NMAAHC (National Museum of African American History and Culture) from their hotel was short, but Bucky was still nervous about it. His anxiety started to eat away at him every time he was in public. A lot of people still saw him as the metal-armed assassin who not only killed a shit ton of political leaders,but also tried to kill Captain America and multiple others.

“Calm down Buck. It’s gonna be okay,” y/n said as they walked down the street. “The museum is only a block away.”

Bucky nodded softly and focused on the task at hand. You just gotta make it down the block. do this for y/n. They were on the stairs of the museum faster than he thought. Y/n went to open the door only to find it locked. She cocked her head to the side when Bucky pointed out the hours posted on the door.

“Looks like we’ll have to wait a little bit doll,” Bucky said as he sat down on the stairs. He patted the spot next to him and wrapped his arm around y/n when she sat down.

They sat there for 15 minutes watching videos on her Instagram and talking. Until a man looked at them and scoffed. Bucky looked up from the video they were watching and looked angrily at the man.

“You got a problem pal?”

The man rolled his eyes and pointed to y/n BLM shirt. Muttering a “She’s one of them.”

Bucky looked at him shocked and walked over to the man. 

“What do you mean she’s one of them? You think black lives don’t matter?” he asked, earning another eye roll and a scoff from the man. “Then we’re gonna have a problem. Cause when it comes to my girl, I don’t fuck around.”

The man (who Bucky had a good three inches on) stood on his tiptoes to be at eye level with Bucky.

“I’m not a big fan of our kind dating nig-”

The man didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence before Bucky’s right hand collided with his jaw, knocking him to the ground. 

Y/n watched proudly as Bucky defended her. Feeling her heart swell for even more love for the father of her unborn child.

Portrait of a group of Union soldiers of the 7th Regiment New York State Militia posing in front of a tent in Camp Cameron in Washington, D.C., 1861. The African American boy was probably a camp servant. Attributed to Mathew Brady.

Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

This image depicts members of the Allen Life Guards. It was taken in the brickyard near Virginia Street in August, 1930, prior to the group’s departure for the Tuskegee Institute and Washington, D.C. The troop were greeted by President Herbert Hoover and granted official Boy Scout charters. Guardmaster Clarence Mathews mortgaged his home in order to finance the trip.The guards were named for the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination, Richard Allen. Most of the people in the image have been identified. Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama.


African-American women have been wearing fancy hats to church for generations. That tradition is being celebrated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which officially opens in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24. Vintage turbans, caps and fascinators that span a half-century are on display — all from the shop of one woman. Her name is Mae Reeves.

“I feel that I have the right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before,” the abolitionist Sojourner Truth said in 1867.

I am thinking about Truth, and so many other African-American female freedom fighters, because of the imminent release of the film Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan. If that movie chronicles the struggle for the vote in Britain, it also brings to mind our own suffrage story. But though we may have vague notions of the American women who fought so heroically for the ballot on this side of the Atlantic, they are, in our minds, in our imaginations, in the photographs and first-person narratives that have come down to us, uniformly white people.

Who would blame you if you thought there were no African-American women who lent their hearts and minds, their intellects, their bodies to the suffrage cause! Rendered invisible in so many accounts, they were in fact doubly brave, fighting a dual oppression—marginalized, trivialized, humiliated, and dismissed for being both black and female.

Women like Naomi Anderson, a suffrage activist who gave a fiery, controversial speech at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Chicago in 1869, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the second black female attorney in the country, renowned for her tough oratory, who organized the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise Association in 1880. Or Anna Julia Cooper, who once announced, “The old, subjective, stagnant, indolent, and wretched life for woman has gone. She has as many resources as men, as many activities beckon her on. As large possibilities swell and inspire her heart.” Or the educator Nannie Helen Burroughs, who asserted: “When the ballot is put into the hands of the American woman, the world is going to get a correct estimate of the Negro woman. It will find her a tower of strength of which poets have never sung, orators have never spoken, and scholars have never written.”

Or Elizabeth Piper Ensley, who fought for—and won—full suffrage for women of all races in Colorado in 1893. And what of Sarah Massey Overton, fighting for the vote in California in the early years of the 20th century? And Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who had the prescience to state, “I do not think the mere extension of the ballot a panacea for all the ills of our national life. What we need today is not simply more voters, but better voters.” (Could there be truer words, with our own presidential election looming?)

Alas, while black women fought and fought hard, many of their Caucasian sisters remained locked in the racist conventions of the day. When the stunningly accomplished Ida B. Wells, who founded the Chicago-based Alpha Suffrage Club, arrived in Washington, D.C. to participate in the 1913 suffrage parade, organizers asked the black women if they would mind very much marching at the end of the demonstration.


The First National Black History Museum Is Here

There were plenty of powerful moments during Saturday’s dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

But one stood out: The first black president and the first black first lady helping Ruth Bonner, the 99-year-old daughter of a man born a slave in Mississippi, ring a bell to open the first national museum of black history. Read more on that here.

You can also read President Barack Obama’s dedication to the museum here.

(All photos by Getty Images)

Painter Alma Thomas (1891–1978) is perhaps best known for her contributions to the Washington Color School. But we love her even more because generations of D.C.’s African American families knew her as the art teacher at Shaw Junior High School where she worked between 1924 and 1960.

Alma Thomas in her studio, ca. 1968 / Ida Jervis, photographer. Alma Thomas papers, 1894-2000, bulk 1936-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.