In 1847, seventy slaves went to the Maryland courts to enforce a deed of manumission granting them their freedom. What should have been a simple matter exploded into a nine-year court case that spun furiously around the ominous question at its core: if a man frees his slaves on moral conviction, does that make him insane?
In 1948, Black journalist Alice Dunnigan put the first of many accomplishments under her belt when she became the first Black female reporter to join the White House press pool and the first Black reporter to go on a campaign trip with a president. Doubted by many reporters due to her gender and race, Dunnigan had to fight for even a smidgeon of the recognition that her male journalist colleagues got, though it never stopped her from doing what she loved.
In June 1981, Black Deaf leaders gathered in Washington to sew the seeds of an organization that would have a profound impact on the Black Deaf community. After centuries of exclusion in both Black and Deaf spaces, organizers came together to make a space of their own. With goals to educate, empower, and strengthen the community, this conference led a call for Black inclusion and leadership in Deaf organizations locally and nationally.
In the 1960s, Arthur Ashe paid a visit to inner-city Washington to participate in a “block party” tennis demonstration. The experience left a lasting impact on him. He would return to Washington and, with the help of friends, create a professional tournament in D.C. which would make the sport more accessible to inner-city African Americans.
One of just two Black women in the White House Press Corps during the 1950s and 1960s, Ethel Payne repeatedly demonstrated her determination to deliver the truth to her readers -- informed by her experience. Responding the criticism that she should be more objective, Payne responded, “I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased…when it comes to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.”
After World War II, Southwest Washington, DC, underwent a bout of complete urban renewal to clean up the blighted neighborhood. But was it worth it? New buildings went up, but a community was torn apart, economic segregation ensued and the project failed to deliver on many of the promises that were made.
Returning to campus for the new school year in 1937, Howard University’s students received grim news: one of their deans, Lucy Diggs Slowe, was “reputed critically ill with pleurisy. Her condition was such on Tuesday that relatives were called to her bedside.” After 15 years at the university, Slowe was a staple to the campus and its students – many of the women enrolled at the college saw her has a mentor and advocate for their education at Howard.
What the headline didn’t mention was what some believed was the cause of her declining health. There were rumblings that it was the efforts of key Howard University staff that had caused her illness, and they wouldn’t stop until Slowe left the school for good.
Who was Lucy Diggs Slowe, and what led to such harsh conflict between her and the university?
Around the same time that Walt Disney envisioned a futuristic alternative to urban living—EPCOT (The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)—a man named Robert E. Simon Jr. dreamed of a better way to live in the suburbs. It was an era of hope when many were asking: “Through careful planning, innovate design, and high ideals, can we manufacture a better way to live?”