City Within a City
— Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
Churches have deep roots
in the life of this historic African American community. A number of congregations in this immediate area, including Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ on this corner and Vermont Avenue Baptist Church just one block away, date back to the Civil War. At the time, Union Soldiers at Camp Barker at 13th and R Streets and the Wisewell Barracks at 7th and P Streets offered protection and assistance for freedmen fleeing the South.
These Churches are a fraction of the religious institutions to be found everywhere in this neighborhood — in storefronts, in grand buildings with nineteenth-century towers and spires, and in modern structures. In addition to serving as places of worship, they have been and continue to be centers of community activity.
They have been filled with music, not only by church choirs., but by such internationally known artists as Leontyne Price and Roland Hayes. The ministers and members of neighborhood churches have also been in the forefront of the struggle for equal rights. Strategy meetings, lectures, and rallies have most often found a base of operations in church basements and Sunday School rooms.
The families of the neighborhood developed deep ties, sometimes for generations, with other families in these churches , and there was much visiting back and forth between congregations. These relationships were further repeated and deepened in the schools. One old-timer put this way — "It was a village."
For the First Half
of the 20th century, this U Street neighborhood inspired and sustained the rich social, civic, and cultural life of Washington's African American community. Here in the shadow of the renowned Howard University, neighbors responded to the injustices of a segregated city by creating their own self-reliant culture as well as generating leaders for the city and nation in science, medicine, law, the military, education, literature and the arts. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, though only one of many celebrated residents, personifies their achievements, Follow this trail to the places that tell the story of this exceptional community in the heart of the nation's capitol.
A tour booklet, City Within a City
, is available at local businesses and sites open to the public. For information on guided tours call 202.828.WALK. To learn about D.C. neighborhoods, visit www.dcheritage.org