An African American Enclave

An African American Enclave (HM1DRW)

Location: Washington, DC 20011
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 57.798', W 77° 2.011'

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Battleground to Community

— Brightwood Heritage Trail —

Even Before Emancipation freed Washington's enslaved people in April 1862, a free African American community had developed here amid the European American farmers. The District of Columbia, unlike its neighbors, permitted the formerly enslaved to remain within its boundaries. The Shamwell family of free blacks settled in Brightwood in 1837. By 1854, four free black landowners clustered here along Rock Creek Ford Road (once Milkhouse Ford Road), with a fifth on Piney Branch Road. Four of the five were women.

During the Civil War, Fort Stevens and Camp Brightwood attracted more freedmen and women seeking work and protection. For the next 90 years, black families worked the land, remaining in substantial wood-framed housese even as surrounding farms fell to subdivsions. St. Luke Baptist Church, founded near Fort Totten in 1879,occupied this corner for 29 years. It was the heart of the community. But city redevelopment forced it to move in 1960. The congregation relocated south to Colorado Avenue and later 1415 Gallatin Street, NW.

Brightwood's first public school for black children, known as Military Road School, opened at the end of the Civil War in a small wood-frame building close to the school's present site.

Over time, modern development consumed most of the old settlement. Some families, like the Shamwells, refused to sell (their former house remains enveloped by apartments). But by 1931 new roads and apartments had displaced most of the houses. Soon the modern Doreen and other apartments dominated Rock Creek Ford Road.
Marker Number7
Year Placed2008
Placed ByCultural Heritage DC
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, September 6th, 2014 at 12:30pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 323815 N 4314670
Decimal Degrees38.96330000, -77.03351667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 57.798', W 77° 2.011'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 57' 47.88" N, 77° 2' 0.66" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)202
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1401-1441 Rock Creek Ford Rd NW, Washington DC 20011, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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