DC

John Collier's Conference at the Cosmos Club

Madison Place in the early 1900s

By 1934, BIA Commissioner John Collier believed that land allotment and other policies meant to help Native Americans were doing more harm than good, and he wanted to reverse them through an ambitious bill known as the Indian Reorganization Act (also called the Wheeler-Howard Act). Collier’s bill would not only nullify the land allotment policy, but it would also allow Native American tribes to govern themselves, decentralize the BIA, consolidate Native land, and transfer Indigenous children from boarding schools to day schools.

The Show Must Go On: Shirley Horn at the Howard Theatre

Exterior of the Howard Theatre at night

By the late 1950s, Shirley Horn had performed all up and down the U Street corridor a countless number of times, but her show at the Howard Theatre one October night in 1958 was particularly memorable for her. The jazz pianist and singer happened to be in the ninth month of her pregnancy at the time and was expecting the baby to be due any day.

Respect, Unity, and Brotherhood at the Million Man March

Group of six men at the Million Man March, 1995

If you visited any major U.S. city in the early fall of 1995, there’s no doubt you would have heard of the Million Man March for Black men in Washington, D.C., on October 16, either from flyers posted around town or through word of mouth. After all, plans for a massive gathering of African American men on the National Mall had been in motion for over a year.

Dinner and Debates: Boardinghouses of the District

Handy, Levin C, photographer. SE view from dome of U.S. Capitol, showing Carroll Row present site of Library of Congress in left foreground. Washington D.C, ca. 1880. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2005697020/.

Long before the invention of the airplane and a short time before trains were used for commercial transportation, congressmen traveling to Washington for extended periods faced a complicated issue: where would they live in the developing capital city while Congress was in session? Some wealthier members of Congress could purchase private residences or stay with a colleague, but this was not a realistic option for most. The most common solution by far, was to reside in one of the District’s many boardinghouses. Several former presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, found boardinghouses to be a phenomenally sufficient option during their congressional years— for a reasonable fee, a boardinghouse would provide you a room, quality meals, place to work, and lively conversation with fellow residents, many of whom were also politicians. Boardinghouses were scattered throughout the city, but the majority of them were located on Capitol Hill in the area where the Library of Congress stands today.

Thrice Uprooted: The U.S. Botanic Garden

1859 Garden & the Capitol, showing the Capitol dome under construction (Source: USBG Flickr, courtesy of Architect of the Capitol)

The U.S. Botanic Garden—located adjacent to the Capitol in a triangle between Maryland Ave SW, Washington Ave SW, and First Street—is rooted in the earliest planning of the capital city. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that a living repository for plants would have countless benefits, from the production of food and medicine to the scientific study of international specimens to the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty. George Washington himself wrote an impassioned letter in 1796 about how a botanic garden should be included in the city plan, even suggesting a few feasible locations.

Man Missing: Scarlet Crow's Fateful Visit to Washington, D.C.

Scarlet Crow's gravestone at Congressional Cemetery

On the night of February 24, 1867 in the nation’s capital, Scarlet Crow, a visiting Sioux chief, mysteriously disappeared. No one knows for sure what happened. Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate oral history proposed that he was kidnapped, while the Evening Star newspaper put forth that he had simply wandered and gotten lost. What is indisputable, however, is that after that night, Scarlet Crow was never seen alive again. 

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