1940s

DC’s Most Underrated History Philanthropist

Albert Small in his later years. He stands in front of a  pairing of the National Mall/

In a city full of millions of people and a myriad of activities to take part in, a twenty-five-year-old Albert Small roamed the concrete jungle that was New York City in 1949. He was a bit bored without his beloved girlfriend, Shirley, by his side. Forced to occupy his time while Shirley worked her Saturday retail job to pay for school. Albert was left to his own devices. He was more used to the slower pace of his home in Washington, DC. The hustle and bustle of the people, noise, and sights of one of the world’s largest metropolises overwhelmed him at points. On this particular Saturday, Albert ducked into an antique bookstore as a means to escape the sensory overload that is the Big Apple. What he found changed his life. 

La Dame qui Boite (The Limping Woman)

Virginia Hall receiving the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest military honor given by the American government and the highest award a civilian can receive) by the head of the OSS, William Donovan.

Trekking through the thick winter snow of the Pyrenees mountain range, Virginia Hall struggled with each passing step. After thirteen months in war-torn France with insufficient access to food, heating, and clothes, the once striking thirty-six-year-old lost the glow of youth. Hardened by the death, loss, and destruction, she witnessed at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators, she was determined to complete the arduous journey through the mountain range that separated occupied France from neutral Spain.

Savior or Slumlord?

Row of rundown homes on 7th St SW

In 1933, eleven words made Minnie Keyes a wealthy woman. They were scrawled on a blank telegram slip, tied to a pencil with an elastic band, and stuffed under a mattress. “Minnie Keyes: You have been good to me. All is yours.” These sentences were the final will and testament of Leonard A. Hamilton, who had lived as a boarder at Keyes’ home for 30 years. Once a court accepted the scrap as legitimate, Keyes inherited Hamilton’s $100,000 estate, about $2.1 million in today’s money. Most of its value lay in real estate: dozens of homes scattered across Washington. The properties Minnie Keyes came to own, however, were not the city’s best. And what should happen to them became the source of great debate.

Death Over the Potomac

National Airport Tower and Landing Strip, circa 1950

In 1949, a shocking mid-air crash near National Airport killed more people than any previous air disaster in U.S. history. It did not take long for investigators to place the blame on one unlucky pilot. But was Capt. Erick Rios Bridoux really at fault?

Local Activists, Backed by District's Black Churches, Led the Fight for DC School Desegregation

Integrated classroom at Anacostia High School

The history of school desegregation in the District is rooted in civil disobedience. The story is one of a grassroots organization of parents that challenged the institution of legalized segregation to guarantee better schools for their children. Throughout the seven-year struggle, the activists were supported by the District's Black churches, and their mission was grounded in the principles of faith and social justice.

Razing the Mother Church: The Sale and Destruction of Saint Augustine Catholic Church

Photo of St. Augustine Catholic Church circa 1899.

For seventy years, St. Augustine Catholic Church, at 15th and L St., NW, was the place where Washington's Black Catholics were baptized, married, and laid to rest. Known as "The Mother Church" of Black Catholics, the property was sold to The Washington Post in 1946. The transaction caught many parishioners by surprise and caused a rift with the white leadership of the Archdiocese.

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