Did you know a house in Bloomingdale was the center of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on fair housing in 1948? Explore civil rights history in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale on a walking tour next month. The tour, Mapping Segregation, will explore the history and eventual Supreme Court dismantling of de jure housing segregation.
Discover these topics on foot with historian Sarah Shoenfeld, who has extensively documented the history of racially restrictive covenants in DC.
In honor of the September 3 birthday of groundbreaking civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950), historian Sarah Shoenfeld will lead a walking tour of DC’s adjacent LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale neighborhoods. Shoenfeld co-directs the online public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington DC, which shows how racially restrictive housing covenants kept much of Bloomingdale off-limits to African Americans until the 1940s. Houston, former Dean of Howard University’s law school and a NAACP attorney, waged numerous legal battles over housing in this neighborhood. One of them, Hurd v. Hodge, contributed to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that racial covenants were unenforceable. This tour will feature some of the houses and blocks subject to battles over covenants, and the shifting geographic lines that divided African Americans from whites in this area over the first half of the 20th century.
Sunday, September 11 at 10 am
Meet at the arch at 6th and T Streets NW
Price: $15 – buy tickets online from the Hill Center
After years of neglect, Howard University has agreed to finish renovations of the Mary Church Terrell House (326 T Street NW).
Mary Church Terrell was a civil rights leader who lived from 1863 to 1954 and spent the last decades of her life in LeDroit Park. She was instrumental in lawsuit, D.C. vs. J. R. Thompson Co., Inc., that that led the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate all restaurants in D.C. in 1953.
Mary Church Terrell and her husband Robert Terrell, D.C.’s first black judge, willed the house to their daughter and, upon her death, to Howard University, which took control of the house in 1998.
The university had long planned to renovate the house and turn into a museum focused on the Terrells and the history of the neighborhood. Those plans never came to fruition.
However, in a Feb. 26 meeting between community leaders, including me, and Howard University President Wayne Frederick, the president assured us that restoration work will start on the house within six months.
We have not seen the exact plans of the physical restoration the university will complete, but Dr. Frederick wants to revisit the concept of housing a museum as he perceives a lack of support for that specific use.
The president is well aware of the vast community support toward the house’s physical restoration. The LeDroit Park Civic Association voted in January to send a letter to the university’s leadership expressing disappointment at the state of the Mary Church Terrell House and the Walter Washington House (408-410 T Street NW), both of which are Howard properties in different state of disrepair.