Southwest in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Equality in Public Education
River Farms to Urban Towers
—Southwest Heritage Trail —
Jefferson Junior High School was built in 1940 after area residents persuaded the city to abandon the original dilapidated building. They hoped the new structure, which included a branch library, would be the beginning of section-wide improvements.
In September 1954, Jefferson was the site of a scene repeated across the city. For the first time, African American students took their seats next to white students in Washington's public schools. The Supreme Court had just ruled that "separate but equal" facilities were unconstitutional, so black students from nearby Randall Junior High all came to Jefferson. Washington's school integration was surprisingly peaceful. Former Jefferson student Carl Cole recalled that integration "had no concerns for me. I had played with white children all of my early life here."
Washington's system of separate schools had required many buildings, but they didn't always meet the needs. In 1954 Southwest had five overcrowded "colored" elementary schools, four under-enrolled white elementaries, and a junior high for each group. When integration began, the school-age population had already declined because urban renewal had been announced. Planners expected that residents of the new Southwest would be older and/or childless. So seven elementaries were demolished. The new Southwest
Because this street ends at the waterfront, in the 1800s Seventh Street became a commercial thoroughfare. Businesses located themselves here and along Seventh into far Northwest Washington. Omnibuses (wagons pulled by horses) carried passengers up and down Seventh until 1862, when Congress chartered a horse-drawn street railway with a line along Seventh to the wharves.
From 1800 until 1950, Southwest was Washington's largest working-class, waterfront neighborhood. Then beginning in 1954, nearly all of Southwest was razed to create an entirely new city in the nation's first experiment in urban renewal. The 17 signs of River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail lead you through the Modernist buildings erected in the 1960s while marking the sites and stories—and the few remaining structures—of the neighborhood that was. Follow this trail to discover the area's first colonial settlers and the waves of immigrants drawn to jobs on the waterfront or in nearby federal government offices. Here Chesapeake Bay watermen sold oysters and fish off their boats. The once-gritty streets were childhood homes to singer Marvin Gaye and movie star Al Jolson. Later residents included
River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 7 of 17.)
Location. 38° 52.872′ N, 77° 1.324′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 7th Street SW and G Street SW on 7th Street SW. Touch for map. On the southwest corner of 7th & G Sts SW. Marker is at or near this postal address: 799 7th St SW, Washington DC 20024, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dr. Dorothy Height (within shouting distance of this marker); Can you identify these famous Civil Rights leaders? (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Dominic Church: Community Anchor (about 800 feet away); Denvel D. Adams (about 800 feet away); Hogate's Rum Bun (approx. 0.2 miles away); Waterfront Commerce (approx. 0.2 miles away); American Ice Company (approx. 0.2 miles away); Historic Water Street (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest.
Also see . . . River Farms to Urban Towers Booklet. (Submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.)
Categories. • Civil Rights • Education •
Credits. This page was last revised on February 13, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 83 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 20, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.