As Washington D.C. braces for an estimated 4 million visitors during next week’s presidential inauguration, My Wonderful World is highlighting some spaces in the city with particular significance to both Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 19th, and the inauguration of the United State’s first African-American president on the 20th.
U-Street and 14th Street. One of my favorite memories from election night is running down 14th Street in celebration of the newly-elected president. The intersection of U and 14th Street is layered with history for the African-American community, beginning with jazz clubs in the 1930’s, followed by riots in 1968 after the assassination of MLK Jr., and finally culminating in a multicultural celebration that engulfed the streets and sidewalks in November of 2008.
The Lincoln Memorial. In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous “I have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington— a civil rights demonstration for equal jobs, justice and peace. It’s quite appropriate that a free concert celebrating the inauguration of the nation’s first black president will be held in the same space this Sunday.
Ben’s Chili Bowl. This eatery along the U-Street corridor is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. From providing a vital lifeline for neighborhood residents during the race riots of the 1960’s (it was the only establishment in the area to stay open), to serving President-elect Obama a few days after his move to D.C., Ben’s has witnessed tremendous change in its 50 year history.
All Souls Church: As early as 1824, anti-slavery sermons resounded from the pulpit of All Souls Church in Washington D.C. While the location of the church has changed several times in its nearly-200 year history, the commitment of its multicultural congregation to support desegregated spaces has long defined the church’s role in the D.C. community. They are commemorating MLK this weekend with special sermons, along with hosting their own inaugural ball at their current location on Harvard Street, NW.
Howard University: Founded in 1867 as a theological seminary for the education of African-American clergymen, Howard University has long been an institution defined by the promotion of scholarly excellence for students of all races, while also being a hub of black academia during the nation’s heated Civil Rights era. Just three years before Dr. MLK Jr. was assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson outlined his plans for civil rights legislation at a graduation address. Forty years later, Howard’s marching band will perform in the 56th Inaugural Parade next Tuesday.
Many of these spaces have come “full circle” in a period of 40 years, and I’m excited to be in our nation’s capitol during this historic event! Can you think of any other places that have undergone similar changes? And how are you celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration? Let us know!
And remember, February is Black History Month.
–Bethany for My Wonderful World