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A Washingtonian History of the District of Columbia

I was raised in the area formerly known as Old City, located between 1800 Independence Avenue, SE and 18th Massachusetts Avenue SE, in Ward 6 -- 18th and Bay Street, S.E. Today, this area is referred to as Capitol Hill. Opposite of the end of the block (south bound), was the old D.C. Jail. Next to the D.C. Jail was Gallinger Hospital, later renamed D.C. General Hospital. One of the earliest community activist and neighbor, who lived on 18th and Bay Street, S.E., was Rufus "Catfish" Mayfield. Catfish Mayfield* referred to me as Baby Brother when he came to our house to talk and visit with my older brother.

I attended Payne Elementary School and later attended the newly built Hine Junior High School at Eastern Market. On our way to Hine Jr. High, we walked eleven blocks from Bay Street and came across several corner stores owned by Jewish owners and one particular store owned by an Afro-American. Utz potato chips, sour pickles, 2 pieces for one cent, penny candies, and fresh honey glazed doughnuts were our favorite treats at that early age.

The 1700 block of Bay Street was referred to as white Bay Street, mainly because many of the homes were lived in by Caucasians. Ms. Patti La Belle lived on the 1700 block for a short time. I do remember one Sunday afternoon seeing Patti La Belle leaving in her convertible Cadillac to do a show with the Blue Belles at Sandy Point Park in Maryland.

Living around the corner from the D.C. Armory, the location of the D.C. National Guard, many entertainment shows where played there. The same as with the D.C. Convention Center would put on for the public. Even today, it astounds me during my visits back home to see how me, my four siblings and two parents lived in our family's row house on Bay Street, S.E.

Around the early 1960's at a Eastern High School versus St. John's football game a fight broke out and the Black students at Eastern High School were later vilified for injuring several St. John spectators and football players. During that period the high schools had a mandatory Cadet course for male students that included ROTC/military training. Eastern during that early period had a few vocational "shop" courses such as carpentry, civil engineering, metal shop and auto mechanic.


Mayor of the District of Columbia

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Walter Washington shakes hands with Pres. Richard Nixon after being sworn in as mayor-commissioner in 1973.

[edit] 1967-74: Mayor-Commissioner

Between 1967 and 1974, Washington had been appointed Mayor-Commissioner by PresidentsLyndon Johnson (1967–1972) and Richard Nixon (1972–1974), during the period before home rule became effective in the District. (He actually was offered the appointment in 1966, but declined because Johnson would not give him authority over the police and fire departments.)

Washington was one of three black men chosen to become mayors of major American cities in 1967. Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana and Carl Stokes of Cleveland were both elected to their posts in that year, while Washington was appointed.

Washington led a city that was torn by racial divisions, both locally and congressionally. When he sent his first budget to Congress in late 1967, RepresentativeJohn L. McMillan, chair of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, responded by having a truckload of watermelons delivered to Washington's office. Soon afterward, he was faced with the riots in the District that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Although he was reportedly urged by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to shoot the rioters, he refused. He told the Washington Post later, "I walked by myself through the city and urged angry young people to go home. I asked them to help the people who had been burned out."

[edit] 1975-79: Elected Mayor

Congress had enacted the District of Columbia Self-Rule and Governmental Reorganization Act on December 24, 1973, providing for an elected mayor and city council for the District. Home rule became effective with the first mayor and council on January 2, 1975. Anticipating that new law, Washington began a vigorous campaign in early 1974 for popular election against six local challengers. The Democratic primary race eventually settled into a two-way contest between Washington and future Army SecretaryClifford Alexander, with Washington ultimately winning a tight race by 4,000 votes. 

The March On Washington and D.C. New City Leaders

The 1963 March on Washington was a great event whose international televised coverage lead to the birth of new leaders to head the D.C. City Council. While most marchers from the South and every other community in the country left after the March on Washington; there were those marchers who stayed in D.C. Several went on to run for and win several position on the D.C. School Board and D.C. Council.

1974 D.C. Council -

D.C. Home grown and a Howard University Law School graduate, David Clark was one of the first council members [he served as Ward 1Councilmember].

Sterling Tucker- born in Akron, Ohio, was too a civil rights activist who in 1974 after the Home Rule Act was elected to the Chairman of the City Council.

Arrington Dixon was a native Washingtonian and was elected to Ward 4 of the Council.

The Start of the Revolution In D.C.

It was a very educated and intellectual Mr. Julius Hobson who publicly complained about the lack of the Federal Government to clean up the slums and business communities of the District. Also, Mr. Hobson was vocal about the social and financial disparities found in the District's school system and downtown businesses.

Rats and dilapidated structures went on as a common site in the District communities and business areas. Mr. Hobson would always been seen with his sharp styled hat and a smoking pipe in his mouth and a bull-horn alerting to all residents the desegregation of Black children from attending white only public schools, the disparity of white schools receiving more funding than Black schools and the the filth of trash and rats in the city.

I remember seeing [this particular day on the H Street, N.E corridor] Mr. Hobson driving around the city protesting [with his bull horn] about the rat problems - with a huge paper mache replica of a black rat tied to the top of his vehicle. Mr. Julius Hobson was the real dramatic African-American activist that Washington, D.C. has ever had to successfully win against city hall and the government for the advancement and social gains of Black Washingtonians. The Stuart-Hobson Elementary School on Capitol Hill is named after him.

Then came President Lyndon Johnson's wife, Lady Bird Johnson's personal community service commitment to the District; her Beautification Program.

During her White House years, Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson served as Honorary Chairman of the National Head Start Program, a program for underprivileged pre-school children which prepares them to take their places in the classroom on a par with their peers.

Credit: LBJ Library Photo by Robert Knudsen Image Date: 03/19/1968 Event: Lady Bird Johnson visits classroom for Project Head Start Image Location: Kemper School, Washington, DC


It happened in a local movie theatre a group of several Black youth. One of the youth whose name was Clarence Booker was shot by a D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer after taking snacks from the movie theatre concession stand.

The Afro-American communities were in shock and anger over the senseless death of a Black young man. The U.S. Congress felt the heat of such happenings commonly known in the deep South now being played in the Nations Capitol. As the War of Rats in the District was ravaging the streets, Congress appropriated funding for a group of D.C. Black demonstrators from the Booker's tragedy to incorporate Pride Incorporated.

Pride Inc. a Department of Labor-funded program to provide job training to unemployed black men. The group employed hundreds of teenagers to clean littered streets and alleys in the District. Marion Barry and Mary Treadwell co-founded with Rufus "Catfish" Mayfield - Pride Inc.

Word on the street was that then civil right activist Marion Barry [Dashiki wearing] position himself to managing PRIDE Inc. along with his new wife Mary Treadwell. Federal authorities found mismanagement of federal dollars in Pride Inc. and arrested Mary Treadwell as she was coming off a flight from a trip to the Bahamas. Both Mary Treadwell and Barry was indicted but many believed that Mary Treadwell took the fall for them both.


It's time to win again!

Win with Calvin Gurley -your next Council Chairman

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