Columbia Heights in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Justice vs. Injustice
—Columbia Heights Heritage Trail —
These elegant 13th Street Houses were constructed when racial separation was legal and widely accepted. In 1910 the deeds for many houses across 13th Street had covenants banning “any negro or colored persons.” Those on this side generally did not have the covenants.
By the 1930s, 13th Street divided black from white. Then, in 1941, African American educator Mary Hundley and her husband Frederick bought 2530 13th Street, on the white side, despite its restrictive covenant. Hundley was the granddaughter of William Syphax, founder of the nation’s (and Washington’s) first public high school for African Americans. White neighbors successfully sued the Hundleys for breaking the covenant, but a higher court overturned the ruling. In 1948 the U.S. Supreme cited the Hundley case when it decreed racially restrictive covenants unenforceable.
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan once lived a block away, at 14th and Euclid Streets. In 1896 Harlan was the only justice to dissent when the Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional. That ruling helped justify the racially restrictive housing covenants that the Hundley case helped end.
Economic discrimination spurred further activism in the 1970s. Protesters rallied for low-income
Across Euclid Street from this sign is number 1236, once the Afro-American Institute for Historic Preservation and Community Development. Established in 1970 by Robert and Vincent DeForest, the institute helped obtain National Historic Landmark status for more than 60 African American historic sites across the nation.
Erected 2009 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 9 of 19.)
Location. 38° 55.429′ N, 77° 1.774′ W. Marker is in Columbia Heights, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Euclid Street, NW and 13th Street, NW, on the left when traveling east on Euclid Street, NW. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1236 Euclid Street, Washington DC 20009, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. On the Heights (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Francis L. Cardozo High School (about 600 feet away); Drum and Spear Bookstore Site (approx. 0.2 miles away); Girard Street Elites (approx. 0.2 miles away); Literary Lights The Latino Intelligence Center (approx. 0.3 miles away); Merriweather Home for Children (was approx. 0.3 miles away but has been reported missing. ); Mansions, Parks, and People (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Columbia Heights.
More about this marker. [Caption, upper left photo:]
This Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” constitutional in 1896. Justice John Marshall Harlan, the only judge to disagree, is fourth from right. (Courtesy of the collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.)
[Caption, photos in upper right:]
Justice John Marshall Harlan’s house at 14th and Euclid Sts., seen at the far right in 1889, left, and in the 1950s, above, after it had become the home of Tifereth Israel Synagogue. (The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. ; the Washington Post.)
[Caption, photo of document in center right:]
This September 28, 1910, deed to Edward T. Lewis included a covenant forbidding sale or rental of the property, 2528 13th St. To “any negro or colored persons.” (DC Archives.)
In the late 1970s the activist group Sojourners organized protests such as this one, below, at 2542 13th St., to save affordable rental housing. (Collection of Sojourners.)
[Caption, photo in lower left:]
Robert (left) and Vincent DeForest in their Euclid St. house display a preservation victory: the Richmond home of Maggie L. Walker, the nation’s first woman to found a bank. (The Washington Post.
Also see . . . Other Columbia Heights Heritage Trail markers entered in the Historical Marker database. (Submitted on October 30, 2009.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Notable Events •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 2, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 24, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,411 times since then and 21 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 24, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4, 5. submitted on December 29, 2017, by Devry Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.