April 03, 2012

The 1940 Census reveals a full profile of LeDroit Park

U.S. Census records are kept confidential for 72 years, meaning that the 1940 Census went public yesterday.  Whereas previous census ledgers were difficult to find online for free, the U.S. Archives released the full 1940 Census online. We have started perusing the pages to look for famous figures and interesting patterns in LeDroit Park, which is covered by enumeration districts 1-514 through 1-516.

A few things stand out.  First, nearly the entire population of LeDroit Park in 1940 was black, illustrating the sharp racial segregation at the time.  Second, nearly every house was packed with residents and many residents took on lodgers.  Our house, a modest two-bedroom built in 1907, housed 13 people!

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We will publish some interesting records as we find them, but let’s start off with the listing for Anna J. Cooper (née Haywood), her lodger, and her nephew, who lived at 201 T Street (pictured below).  The Cooper household is listed as entries 53 – 55 in the ledger at the top of this post.

Anna J. Cooper HouseCooper was the principal of the M Street High School, she was an author, a feminist, and a teacher.  The census only collects unambiguous personal statistics, so there is actually a longer story behind every column entry.

The first column in the snippet above states the value of her home as $20,000, a high sum compared to other LeDroit Park homes.

The 11th column lists “C8”, meaning that she received eight years of a college education.  What the record doesn’t state is that she received a PhD from the Sorbonne in 1924, making her among the first black American women to receive a doctorate.

The 8th column states her age as 80 (she was actually 81) and the 13th column simply states that she was born in North Carolina.  What the record doesn’t state is that she was born in North Carolina in 1858 into slavery.

The rest of the record not pictured in the above snippet states that by 1940 she was unable to work, though in reality she was likely still running a small night school.

She died in 1964 at the age of 105. The circle at 3rd and T Streets is named in her honor, she is featured on a postage stamp and on pages 26 and 27 of the U.S. passport.

Categories: Demography, History
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