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Columbia Heights in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Literary Lights

Cultural Convergence

 

—Columbia Heights Heritage Trail —

 
Literary Lights Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 29, 2017
1. Literary Lights Marker
Inscription.  "A Black world in which a wonderful democracy of conditions prevailed — waitresses, doctors, preachers, winos, teachers, numbers runners and funeral directors, prostitutes and housewives, cabdrivers and laborers all lived as neighbors."
—Marita Golden, describing Columbia Heights of the 1960s in Long Distance Life


The house to your right at 1422 was built in 1893 for P.B.S. Pinchback, a Reconstruction era politician and lawyer from Louisiana. Pinchback briefly served as Louisiana's governor, the only African American governor in the country until Virginia elected Douglas Wilder in 1990. Pinchback also won seats in the U.S. House and Senate, but white politicians prevented him from claiming them.

Here on Harvard Street, Pinchback raised his grandson, future author Jean Toomer. Toomer's time here provided material for his 1923 masterpiece, Cane. "Dan Moore walks southward on Thirteenth Street," Toomer wrote. "The low limbs of budding chestnut trees recede above his head....The eyes of houses faintly touch him as he passes them. Soft girl-eyes, they set him singing."

Almost
Literary Lights Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, December 29, 2017
2. Literary Lights Marker
four decades later novelist Marita Golden also found a rich setting in Columbia Heights.

The great Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, son of a diplomat assigned to the Mexican Embassy on 16th Street, relished life here in the 1930s. Washington had "one of the best public school systems in the world," he recalled, "and I profited from it."

The Drum and Spear, Washington's first Afrocentric bookstore, operated three blocks from here, at 1371 Fairmont St., from 1969 until the mid 1970s.

As you turn left on 14th Street to reach Sign 19, note the formerly private residences at 2901-2907 14th Street. From 1917 until 1972 the Hines Funeral Home operated there before the buildings became home to the Greater Washington Urban League.

Reverse:
More than 200 years ago, city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed a new capital city on the low coastal plain at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, bordered on the north by a steep hill. Today the hill defines Columbia Heights.

Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Heritage Trail takes you on a tour of the lively neighborhood that began as a remote suburb of Washington City. Over time, transportation innovations, starting with streetcars, made Columbia Heights accessible and desirable. Soon, men and women of every background populated the neighborhood, people
Pinkney B. S. Pinchback image. Click for full size.
C.M. Bell Studio (courtesy of the Library of Congress)
3. Pinkney B. S. Pinchback
by C. M. Bell Studio between 1873 and 1890.
who changed the world with new technology, revolutionary ideas, literature, laws, and leadership. From the low point of the civil disturbances of 1968, Columbia Heights turned to resident leaders and rose again. Metrorail’s arrival in 1999 provided a boost, reviving the historically important 14th Street commercial corridor. Experience both the new and old Columbia Heights, with all its cultural and economic diversity, as you talk this walk.

A Description of the Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Heritage Trail tour and acknowledgment of its creators follows.
 
Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 18.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail marker series.
 
Location. 38° 55.589′ N, 77° 1.999′ W. Marker is in Columbia Heights, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Harvard Street Northwest west of 14th Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1422 Harvard 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. The Latino Intelligence Center (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Drum and Spear Bookstore Site (about 700 feet away); Everyday People (about 700 feet away); Main Street (approx. 0.2 miles away); Social Justice (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ambassadors of Faith (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Wilson Center (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fashionable 16th Street (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Columbia Heights.
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicHispanic AmericansPolitics
 
More. Search the internet for Literary Lights.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 21, 2019. This page originally submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 92 times since then and 23 times this year. Last updated on March 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   3. submitted on February 1, 2019, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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