DC History and MLK Resources

Further to readings from this past week, the fourth of the Omer on the Anacostia journey:

Just a bit of DC History

Somewhat reminiscent of the Joseph story, DC’s history is full of ups and downs and shifting relationships to power and self-determination. The first class in Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid’s “DC 101” series, held in January 2021, provided an overview, excerpted here.


“By 1870, Washington DC had evolved a powerful local government, with a mayor and City Council. City Council seats, committees, and jobs were held by many Blacks…The last mayor was Matthew G Emery, who was overthrown by a Southern-controlled Congress in 1871.” (James Shabazz)

There was a powerful Statehood movement at that time.

Explaining why he felt it necessary to overthrow the DC government, Rep. John Tyler Morgan, “a plantation owner and Ku Klux Klan leader… said: ‘it was necessary to burn down the barn to get rid of the rats.'” (JS)

A Congressional Control Board was established and persisted for decades.

By 1940s, there was a “grass-roots provisional government,” with active committees, lawyers, and budgets. Separate associations existed for Black and white residents, but they cooperated on approaches to Congress and succeeded in obtaining resources. “However, the poor, the unemployed, and the homeless Black population lived in rooming house or back-alley Shantytowns” and were ignored or rejected and eventually moved to public housing in “Urban Renewal — or Negro Removal” efforts. (JS)

By 1972, DC “Home Rule” was established with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, transferring power of the provisional government.

For 20 years, ANCs were populated by those experienced community leaders. “By 1990, this generation was dead or retired…. ” (JS)

— DC history presented by Reginald Black, co-founder of People for Fairness Coalition among other titles, and James Shabazz, spokesperson for Organized Vendors for Economic Cooperation. Summary includes “direct quotations” and paraphrase.

Check out the rest of the informative and engaging presentation “DC 101: Housing and Development” on DC 101 Playlist on YouTube and on Facebook. Additional DC 101 videos and more on both platforms as well.



A couple of MLK resources

“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” National Cathedral, 3/31/68 — Transcript and audio. Also available in text from the King Institute at Stanford or find sound recordings on-line.

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? 1967; Reprinted, Boston: Beacon Press, 2010

“A Knock at Midnight,” sermon given as early as 1958, is a favorite of Kymone Freeman’s and a great comfort at times of feeling overwhelmed by the task. Again, the text is available at King Institute, with sound recordings common as well.