Shaw in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Strong Families and Eminent Citizens
City Within a City
—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
The fine rowhouses in this part of the Shaw neighborhood, such as those on this street, were once home to many of the community’s old families and most distinguished citizens.
Charles Hamilton Houston, a national leader in civil rights, was born one block south of here in the 1400 block of Swann Street. A prominent African American lawyer and Howard University professor, he worked with his most famous student, the future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, to develop the arguments that would end legal segregation in America. Marshall, who used these arguments to win the famous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, credited Houston with laying the groundwork for the modern civil rights movement.
The red-brick corner house at 1461 S Street, two blocks south of here, was home to the African American poet Georgia Douglas Johnson, a writer associated with the flowering of African American literature and art in the 1920s known as the New Negro (or Harlem) Renaissance. Every Saturday night Johnson opened her home to artists and writers, making it the heart of the Renaissance in Washington. Among her guests were writer Jean Toomer (author of Cane), the poet Langston Hughes, and Howard University professor Alain Locke, who first named and defined the Renaissance in his 1925 book, The
This was also a neighborhood of strong families, many of whom had been in Washington for generations. Some traced their ancestry back to the city’s large pre-Civil War free Black population. Noted African American photographer Addison Scurlock took their portraits and recorded their rites of passage on film – births, graduations, debutante parties, and weddings. His presence in the community was so strong that a local wag once said, “If he didn’t photograph your wedding, you weren’t married.”
Charles Hamilton Houston (Moreland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University)
Alain Locke, below, and author Jean Toomer (Moreland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University) frequented the salons at the home of Georgia Douglas Johnson, top.
Dr. Albert and Grace Ridgeley and family, photographed by Addison Scurlock in 1915, above, and two Ridgeley girls, right, photographed a few years later. (Grace Ridgeley Drew)
Business card for The Scurlock Studio (Henry R. Whitehead Collection)
Book cover for Cane by Jean Toomer
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 10 of 14.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20009, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. This is part of the Shaw neighborhood (within shouting distance of this marker); John Wesley Cromwell Residence (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Living Mural: Paul Laurence Dunbar (about 500 feet away); This section of 15th St. (about 500 feet away); A Shared Neighborhood (about 500 feet away); Georgia Douglas Johnson Residence (about 600 feet away); Todd Duncan Residence (about 600 feet away); Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments (about 700 feet away).
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Notable Persons • Notable Places •
Credits. This page was last revised on July 29, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 24, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 650 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on April 24, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on July 29, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.