1960s

"Belair at Bowie": Segregated Suburbia

Karl Gregory tries to buy a home in Belair at Bowie

By 1963, “Belair at Bowie” was thriving. Since its opening in 1961, over 2000 houes had been occupied. But its prosperity hid an uncomfortable truth. William Levitt’s vision of the perfect neighborhood included attractive homes, affordable prices, comfort, and community—but only one type of neighbor. From the moment Levitt arrived in Washington, local activists—and even the government—became aware of the developer’s racist policy: none of the homes in Belair could be sold to people of color.  

William Porter and Helen Leavitt sit on the back of a stagecoach, showing a banner that reads, "Taxation Without Representation."

In Washington, "Taxation Without Representation" is History

Most Americans are familiar with the phrase, of course. It brings to mind images of the Revolutionary War—colonists protesting a series of taxes imposed on them by the British Parliament, despite their lack of involvement in its affairs. According to tradition, the battle cry of “taxation without representation is tyranny” originated in Boston, where it featured in such famous displays as the Boston Tea Party.  In the popular imagination, the phrase defined the conflict that lead to the creation of our own, more just government. So how did the phrase come to be associated with Washington, D.C., the center of that government?

Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

"New Girl in Town": Washington Gets a Leonardo

On a cold night in January 1967, a plane landed quietly at National Airport. No one could know where it came from and what it carried. in fact, the only indication of the plane's arrival came through a coded message, sent by the FBI agents on board: "the Bird" had landed. Despite all this, though, the only thing that came off the plane was a perfectly ordinary, plain grey American Tourister suitcase. No one suspected anything.

However, rumors circulated. Two weeks later, the New York Times broke the news that Washington's National Gallery of Art had landed the art deal of the century: the purchase of a painting by one of the most famous artists in the world, Leonardo da Vinci. 

1969: Georgetown Becomes Fully Coed

Cartoon from Georgetown student publication The Hoya, picturing a woman jumping out of a cake labelled "The College" to the surprise of several male faculty and students.

“They’ll admit women to the College over my dead body!”

When the Georgetown University Board of Directors announced big changes coming to campus in 1969, at least one Jesuit priest was clearly not thrilled. Perhaps he had just read the headline: “Georgetown Breaks Tradition, Allows Women into the College of Arts and Sciences.” Perhaps he had not heard the rumors that his university needed money, and would be increasing its enrollment rate in the coming years. Perhaps he had neglected to look outside the window of his office and notice that women had been walking across Georgetown’s campus for many years already.

Washington Hosts the 1969 All-Star Game

American League players at the 1969 All-Star game

Washington, D.C. hosted the 1969 All-Star game at RFK stadium. It was a thrilling event that drew baseball fans together to watch the greats of the MLB, including hometown hero Frank Howard, go head-to-head. But the game also made history as the first, and only, All-Star game to be postponed due to weather. A torrential rain storm disrupted the city's plans, but that didn't stop more than 45,000 fans from coming out to RFK the next afternoon. 

Wishing in a Fountain: The Protest for more D.C. Pools

Children splash in the fountain at Columbus Circle to protest a shortage of pools in Washington, D.C.

In the early 1960s, the Evening Star called the Columbus Circle fountain in front of Union Station “a ready made swimming pool with ledges, platforms, and friendly statues. It is a grand place to wrestle and splash during the heat of the day, to get the shivers, and to finally recapture the heat by stretching full length on the warm bricks of the surrounding walk. Columbus looks on — pleased and noble.” However, as inviting as it was, swimming in the fountain was technically against Park Police regulations ... which made it the perfect place to protest Washington’s shortage of accessible swimming pools.

Fired for Being Gay, Frank Kameny Spent the Rest of His Life Fighting Back

Frank Kameny protests outside Independence Hall in 1965

You might be familiar with the Red Scare, Senator Joseph McCarthy's efforts to remove suspected communists from the U.S. State Department. But what about the Lavender Scare? Starting in the 1940s, government officials began firing thousands of employees based on their sexual orientation. Frank Kameny, a Harvard-educated astronomer was one of them. He lost his job in 1957 and challenged the dismisssal all the way to the Supreme Court. 

In the White House When the Eagle Landed

President Nixon - Welcome - Apollo XI Astronauts - USS Hornet” (Photo Credit: NASA/JSC) https://moon.nasa.gov/resources/195/president-nixon-welcome-apollo-xi-astronauts-uss-hornet/

Approximately 530 million Americans across the country, including those in the White House, sat glued to their television sets on the evening of July 20, 1969, watching as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. It may have been President John F. Kennedy who jumpstarted the space program in 1961, but it was Richard Nixon sitting in the Oval Office the day that JFK’s promise of putting a man on the moon became a reality. It was also Nixon who would mark the occassion by making the longest distance phone call in history that night, as he picked up the Oval Office phone and dialed Space.

Exterior view of Pope-Leighey House in the early evening, as warm light shines through the uniquely carved clerestory windows

All's Wright that Ends Well: The Pope-Leighey House of Northern Virginia

When Loren Pope learned of the acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, he spent months working up the courage to mail him a letter. "There are certain things a man wants during life, and, of life," Pope divulged in 1941. "Material things and things of the spirit. The writer has one fervent wish that includes both. It is for a house created by you." Wright penned in response, "Of course I'm ready to give you a house." Their earnest collaboration resulted in a humbly exquisite Falls Church home. Pope's wish had come true, but mere wishful thinking would not be enough to save the house from highway builders in the 1960s.

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