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Mount Vernon Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Reaching for Equality

Midcity at the Crossroads

 

—Shaw Heritage Trail —

 
Reaching for Equality Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
1. Reaching for Equality Marker
Inscription.  For much of the 1900s, inexpensive entertainments lined much of Seventh and Ninth Streets, from D to U Streets. Vaudeville houses, pool halls, record shops and taverns made for a busy night life. And everyone went to the movies. Two small theaters once operated on this block, the Alamo at 1203 and the Mid City (1223). Seventh Street also boasted the Happyland (1220), Gem (1131), and Broadway (1515), with the Raphael nearby at 1401 Ninth.

Until 1953, Washington’s movie houses were segregated by theaters or entire theaters. By 1927, five of the city’s 13 “Colored” theaters were found near here. Some were White-owned. Others were not, such as the Mid City owned by African American vaudeville star Sherman H. Dudley.

The Washington Bee newspaper, a booster of Black-owned businesses, encouraged boycotts of White-owned theaters. In 1910 the Bee targeted the Happyland, which divided its auditorium with a low partition. Theater historian Robert Headley noted that children often hurled hard candy at each other over the wall. As late as 1937, the Gem had its partition.

In summer 1919
Reaching for Equality Marker - photo on reverse image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
2. Reaching for Equality Marker - photo on reverse
"In 1950, the block of Seventh between M and N Streets was filled with small businesses and movie theaters." (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)
a race riot came to this area. That summer, racial disturbances were sweeping U.S. cities. Heroic Black veterans of World War I’s battles for freedom had come home demanding new respect and began organizing for civil rights. Their actions threatened some White D.C. residents. In July an incident in Southwest sparked White mobs that rampaged through Black neighborhoods. In turn, armed Black men defended their communities. Over five days, more than 30 Black and White residents were killed and hundreds were injured.
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 12.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Shaw Heritage Trail marker series.
 
Location. Marker has been reported damaged. 38° 54.354′ N, 77° 1.309′ W. Marker is in Mount Vernon Square, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 7th Street Northwest north of M Street Northwest, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1201 7th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Seventh Street Develops (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); “Sweet Daddy” Grace (about 400 feet away); Immaculate Conception Catholic School (about 600 feet away); Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Reaching for Equality Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 16, 2009
3. Reaching for Equality Marker
(about 600 feet away); Remembering "the Village" (about 600 feet away); Power Brokers (about 600 feet away); Roots of Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral (about 600 feet away); The Place to Shop (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mount Vernon Square.
 
More about this marker. Illustration captions:
The Broadway seen in 1937 and the Gem, 1964. (Scurlock Studio Collection, National Museum of American History/ Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)

Theater entrepreneur Sherman H. Dudley and his 1919 newspaper ad:
“There is a reason why you should go to S. H. Dudley’s Mid-City Theater, 1223 Seventh Street, N.W.
Only Vaudeville House on the Thoroughfare. Best of Photoplays.
And the Only Theater on Seventh Street Owned by a Race Man.” (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library.)

The Washington Bee described the 1919 race riot: “The Colored American’s Reward for Fighting for ‘World Democracy’...” (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library.)

A Washington Bee cartoon accuses White police of disarming Black citizens and failing to defend them from the mobs during the riots of 1919. (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library.)
 
Also see . . .
1. Scurlock Studio and Black Washington. (Submitted on September 8, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Red Summer of 1919. (Submitted on September 8, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
 
Additional keywords. Civil unrest; Red Scare; Red Summer; Jim Crow.
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsRoads & VehiclesWar, World I
 
Reaching for Equality Marker<br>Destroyed image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 23, 2017
4. Reaching for Equality Marker
Destroyed
Reaching for Equality Marker<br>Destroyed image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 23, 2017
5. Reaching for Equality Marker
Destroyed
Both sides of the marker have been destroyed.
 
More. Search the internet for Reaching for Equality.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 23, 2019. This page originally submitted on September 7, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,079 times since then and 12 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 7, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   4, 5. submitted on September 24, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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