Washington DC, the former Chocolate City
These days, with the redeveloping of neighborhoods in most of the Washington DC ghetto communities, the term Chocolate City no longer fits the makeup of the city as the Southeast Washington DC section has become the last of its kind by being the only fully African American area.
The DMV (metropolitan of Washington DC) is truly broken into four sides, Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast, as well neighboring sections of Maryland’s Prince George’s County.
Before the massive transformation of Washington DC’s urban communities, the landscape of DC was predominantly African American, with exception to areas west of NW 16th Street or the sections of the Northeast near the capital and the National Mall.
Currently, all urban communities of the Northwest, Southwest and specific neighborhoods of the Northeast that are northwest of the Anacostia River are being highly affected by gentrification with the displacement from their long-time communities.
The Streets of the 1990s
Washington DC was one of the first, if not the first, cities in the country to begin the process of gentrification, beginning with the removal of certain housing projects.
As diplomats from foreign countries would come to visit the United States, the government would want to hide the poverty and issues of America from foreign officials. This led to housing complexes like Sheridan Terrace of the Southeast, along the Suitland Parkway, to be redevelop, starting during late 1990s.
There was a reputation of the Washington DC ghetto, especially from the 1980s to the 2000s, as the District would hold the title for the Murder Capital for a couple years, especially at the height of the drug era.
A city filled with nothing but apartment buildings, public housing complexes and rowhouses would become a warzone in some areas with neighboring communities having conflicts and confrontations with each other.
For generations, many of these communities had create their own reputations, some more fierce than others, from being well known in the streets to being well publicized on television and in the media with the broadcasting on the news.
Whether it is Northwest’s First Street, home to the likes of Sursum Corda, the Southwest’s James Creek, the Northeast’s Trinidad neighborhood or Southeast’s Barry Farm, the respect factor for the Washington DC communities was well deserved as ironically the United States’ capital city was highly active and a daily struggle for many.
While there has been a black presence in the city of Washington D.C. since its beginning, Southeast Washington DC had two specific areas, Barry Farm and Anacostia, that have been communities for African Americans since the 1800s.
Supposedly, Barry Farm was one of the first places that accepted black residents in Washington DC as the small neighborhood became a home for dozens, if not hundreds, of freed slaves.
After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and people began to riot and protest soon after, many white families left Southeast Washington DC for the suburb communities in the Maryland counties.
By the 1970s, the Southeast Washington DC was a predominantly black community with people moving and relocating into areas like Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, Marshall Heights, and other Southeast neighborhoods.
Today, the South Side is the only section of the city that has not been widely affected by gentrification, with the only gentrified areas being a few housing projects of Eastgate, 58th Street’s East Capitol Dwellings and Capitol View Plaza, Stanton Terrace’s Stanton Dwellings and Frederick Douglass Dwellings, Washington Highlands’ Valley Green and Linda Pollin, and Sheridan Terrace.
At times, the rebuilding process of the Washington DC housing communities have included residents claiming the housing authority was allowing apartment units to deteriorate so they can be claimed as unlivable to eventually be demolish or the promising of rebuilding led to less than half of the original units being replaced.
What is the future of Southeast DC, while being separated from the rest of the city, due to its location on the other side of the Potomac/Anacostia River, the properties of the South Side may not be as wanted as the Northwest or Northeast but gentrification is still replacing many communities cultures all over Washington DC.
What begun out as a diverse community with African American, Jewish and other ethnicities changed after the city decided to redevelop the Southwest section of Washington DC.
Redeveloping Southwest Washington DC, in the neighborhood’s early days, destroyed much of the area during the 1950s and 1960s as the community was replaced with businesses, commercial properties and low-income apartment complexes. Many people were forced to move into other parts of the city while others moved into the apartment buildings and public housing complexes of the Southwest.
With the destruction of most of the area, the main communities became Greenleaf Gardens (3 N K), James Creek (106 and Park), Syphax Gardens and the old Cappers projects (Arthur Cappers and Carrollsburg), while most, other than James Creek, were built after the city redeveloped the Southwest section.
In recent years, the community has begun to redevelop areas like Buzzards Point and the Southwest Waterfront as a multi-million-dollar redevelopment project, along with some of the housing projects of the Southwest Washington DC ghetto are supposed to become mixed income communities.
This will once again change the Southwest section of D.C., making this area of the city to be more of an upscale community with the nearby Nationals Park stadium, numerous businesses, restaurants and shops that are planned to be built in the region.
One of the city’s first all-black neighborhoods was in the section of Northwest Washington DC, which has often been referred as Uptown. Many blacks began living in small communities known as the Alley Dwellings, but the neighborhood of Shaw was the largest and most historic community of Northwest Washington DC.
The Shaw community was at one time the center of all black culture in Washington DC as the area was thriving during the late 1800s and the early 1900s with prominent all-black institutions, live entertainment, and dozens of successful businesses.
One of the city’s most famous and historic districts was the U Street area, located in the Shaw community from NW 9th Street to NW 18th Street was nationally known for entertainment and many black owned businesses.
Other historic communities of Northwest Washington DC were neighborhoods like Columbia Heights, LeDroit Park, which is the location of Howard University, and a few others.
After the Martin Luther King assassination, of the late 1960s, the neighborhood changed from being a thriving business district to public officials naming the community as one of the most crime infested areas in the city.
When the streets became active, beginning mostly in the late 1980s, the Northwest Washington DC ghetto or the Uptown area was well known for the legendary Hanover Place, Sursum Corda, and the now demolished Temple Court, as well several blocks off First Street or in the Shaw neighborhood.
Since the days before the 2000s, the Northwest Washington DC neighborhoods have been the city’s most sought after communities by developers and real estate companies, especially during the days of the massive amounts of Washington DC gentrification.
Beginning in places like Columbia Heights or Adams Morgan, Washington DC gentrification has been claiming much of the neighborhood, from the once famous U Street to neighborhoods along Georgia Ave.
These once predominantly black communities, that had once thrived and then declined around the 1960s and 1970s, are coming back with a promise of luxury homes and businesses as investors have been buying properties throughout the area, the only problem there will be new residents.
Washington DC gentrification, over the years, has been leading to evictions or the force of relocation of longtime residents into communities of the South Side (Southeast DC) or in Maryland due to the increasing property values and higher rents.
The largest section of the city, the streets of the Northeast Washington DC ghetto was home to some the city’s most legendary communities like Parkside, Little Vietnam (21st and Maryland), KWA (Kenilworth Avenue), Trinidad, Clay Terrace and Lincoln Heights.
While Northeast Washington DC is a predominantly black community, in the beginning black families were only limited to a few of the areas in the community. Some of the city’s oldest all-black communities in Northeast Washington DC were Deanwood, Carver-Langston, Rosedale and Kingman Park, Ivy City, Brookland and parts of what is now the Kenilworth Avenue area.
Places like Deanwood were prominent all-black communities that had various historic all-black establishments like an amusement park, theaters and other businesses, while originally starting out as a rural area that would later be built into a livable community by black workers after African Americans were not allowed in certain areas.
The Carver-Langston neighborhood is home to one of the city’s first housing project, Langston Terrace, and across Benning Road is the Rosedale and Kingman Park area that was originally built for white families but would later become an African American neighborhood.
The small and isolated neighborhood of Ivy City became an all-black community with the help of employment opportunities as early as the late 1800s, while parts of Brookland had black families in the area since around the 1930s.
The KWA section of Northeast Washington DC started out as a suburb for white families due to an old all-white housing complex that was known as the Lily Pond Houses, but the demographics of the area would quickly change as the housing complex racial makeup became predominantly African American.
Due to the rioting from the assassination of Martin Luther King and the elimination of segregation, many of the white families left the city of Washington DC for the suburbs in nearby Maryland counties.
Their exit from the city eventually made Northeast Washington DC to become a predominantly black community by the 1970s as Northeast DC would later become a mixed community of low-income areas of housing complexes and middle-class African American communities like Riggs Park and Michigan Park.
While gentrification is affecting many of the communities of the Washington DC ghetto, parts of the Northeast that are south of the Anacostia River are the least affected by gentrification, with exception to the demolishing of Parkside and 58th Street housing complexes.
The section of Northeast Washington DC that is near the United States Capitol buildings are the communities that are being hit the hardest by gentrification as people are being forced to move with the rise in rent and property values.
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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.