“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
U Street Corridor in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

A Place to Grow

Anthony Bowen YMCA


—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —

A Place to Grow Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 29, 2017
1. A Place to Grow Marker
Inscription.  You are standing at the fourth home of the Anthony Bowen YMCA, named for the formerly enslaved minister who founded the nation's first independent "colored" YMCA. As the YMCA opened in Washington in 1853, slavery was legal. Yet the majority of the city's African Americans were free and faced daily segregation and exclusion from public facilities. These city dwellers needed a place to develop positive spiritual, physical, and social lives.

At first the YMCA operated in Reverend Bowen's Southwest Washington home, rented rooms, donated spaces, and a building owned briefly on 11th Street, NW. Then the Reverend Jesse E. Moorland incorporated the club in 1905 as the "colored" branch of the YMCA of the City of Washington. Moorland led the fundraising for the YMCA building that welcomed the community at 1816 12th Street, NW in 1912. For 50 years, it was the only YMCA in the District serving African Americans.

Educator and civil rights champion E.B. Henderson introduced basketball to African Americans in DC at the YMCA in 1907. He led the Washington 12 Streeters to victory in the 1910 World Colored Basketball Championships. Future
A Place to Grow Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 29, 2017
2. A Place to Grow Marker
NBA star Elgin Baylor found pick-up games at the Y during the 1940s. Scores of workers, athletes politicians, artists, professionals, and young people found support within the YMCA's halls and gyms. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall developed strategies to fight segregation there.

The Bowen YMCA (renamed in 1972 to pay homage to its founder) closed its historic Twelfth Street facility in 1982 when the rundown building was declared unsafe. The branch re-opened in 1987 in the former Hillcrest Children's Center on this spot to continue providing education, refuge, from troubled times, development of the mind, body, sprit, and community — the same services first offered by Reverend Bowen in his home.

For the first half of the twentieth 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 the 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
A Place to Grow Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 29, 2017
3. A Place to Grow Marker
story of this exceptional community in the heart of the nation's capital.

A tour booklet, City Within a City: U Street Heritage Trail, is available in English and Spanish at local businesses and institutions along the route. To learn more about other DC neighborhoods, please visit

Special thanks for images provided by photographer Robert H. McNeill and Henry P. Whitehead. Duke Ellington mural by G. Byron Peck. Marker produced by YMCA of Metropolitan Washington in cooperation with District Department of Transportation and Cultural Tourism DC.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 55.157′ N, 77° 1.908′ W. Marker is in U Street Corridor, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 14th Street Northwest and W Street Northwest on 14th Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2211 14th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20009, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mary Ann Shadd Cary Residence (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); "Deep River" (about 700 feet away); "Scandalize My Name" (about 700 feet away); "All Men Are Brothers" (about 700 feet away); "Othello" (about 700 feet away); "Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho" (about 700 feet away); The Fedora (about 800 feet away); "Stand By Me" (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in U Street Corridor.
Also see . . .  Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage/12th Street YMCA Site. African American Heritage Trail (Submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.) 
Categories. African AmericansChurches & ReligionFraternal or Sororal OrganizationsSports
More. Search the internet for A Place to Grow.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 16, 2019. This page originally submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 83 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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