Washington D.C. has changed very drastically in the past 20 years. Washington D.C. was known as “The Chocolate City” because it was once one of the biggest cities with a large Black population. As gentrification has spread throughout many different cities, displacing many black people, businesses, culture etc. It’s crazy because when I talk to people at my school about different topics on D.C. culture they are shocked to even know about these things. To them they just see D.C. as the monuments, government and hell, even just brunch. I hear many black residents from D.C often say that there are two sides of D.C.: there is “Washington”( Which is the predominantly white and gentrification areas you see today” and “D.C.”(Which are the predominately Black areas in D.C.).
“U Street” is a prominent example of a neighborhood with so much history and culture that is lost due to gentrification. U street now contains of Bars, high rise ( and might I add HELLA expensive) apartments, restaurants, fancy stores etc. It has become the new hub for young people to eat, drink and party. But what many people do not know is that U street was known as “Black Broadway”. During the segregation era, D.C. was split into two different cities, you had Black D.C. and you had White D.C. U street allowed Black people to create their own businesses like hotels, theaters, a Black owned banks, churches, Clubs and a University(Howard University). When Black D.C. residents weren’t allowed to share or even be in the same space as white people in D.C., Black people made their own. U street was “the city within a city”, it began to fill itself with so much culture like musicians, poets and intellectual leaders. U street was the go to place for Jazz musicians to perform, D.C’s own Duke Ellington, Madame Lillian Evanti( who was the world’s first Black Opera Singer) and Louis Armstrong performed at The Lincoln Theater.
U street was a neighborhood where not only Black business was booming but Black people thrived in D.C. Black people realized they can support and provide for each other when the rest of the world wanted to turn their backs on them. It’s kind of sad to know that because of U street’s recent change over the last few years, you barely see the Black culture U street once had for so many years. Change and diversity is not bad at all in cities, that is not my issue, but when you deliberately stripped a neighborhood’s culture and history that is where I have an issue. New residents need to learn the history of the places they are moving too, learn about its history!!!