Shaw in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
“Sweet Daddy” Grace
Midcity at the Crossroads
—Shaw Heritage Trail —
Along this block is the world headquarters of the United House of Prayer for All People. Founded in 1919 in Massachusetts by Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace, the church moved its headquarters to Washington in 1926. Soon after, it purchased a mansion where the church is today. The mansion had housed Frelinghuysen University, a night school headed by noted educator Anna J. Cooper.
Bishop Grace’s mass baptisms were legendary. One year he baptized 208 people in front of 15,000 onlookers here on M Street, with water provided by local fire fighters. At the time of the flamboyant, charismatic evangelist’s death in 1960, his church claimed three million members in 14 states. Bishop Grace was succeeded by Bishop Walter McCollough, who expanded the church’s political influence. Under McCollough, the church purchased and built hundreds of units of affordable housing in Shaw and Southeast, as well as in North Carolina and Connecticut. The church is also known for its Saints Paradise Cafeteria, community service, music and outreach to the poor.
Over time nearly two dozen religious congregations have settled in Shaw. Congregations often traded spaces as their numbers grew or shrank, or they followed their membership to the suburbs. Along the trail you will see current and former houses of worship for Islam, A.M.E.
Bishop Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace preaches from an open car on M Street, around 1950. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
This Second Empire style mansion was the original church headquarters, 1950. Grace Magazine, left, distilled the evangelist’s message. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
Bishop McCollough, center, leads a groundbreaking for a church expansion. (United House of Prayer for All People.)
The decorated Bishop’s House, North Portal Drive, NW, a Christmas season local landmark. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
Mourners watch as Bishop Grace’s casket is removed from of sic the original United House of Prayer on this block. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
This neighborhood has always been "a place between places," where races and classes bumped and mingled as they got a foothold on the city. It has attracted the powerful seeking city conveniences as well as immigrants and migrants just starting out. By 1900 the Shaw neighborhood lay just north of the downtown federal offices and white businesses, and south of the African-American-dominated U Street commercial corridor and Howard University.
Longstanding local businesses took root here, and leaders flourished: Carter G. Woodson, Langston Hughes, John Wesley Powell, B. F. Saul, and A. Philip Randolph. The nation’s finest “colored” schools were here too. By the 1930s the area was known as Midcity or Shaw (for Shaw Junior High School).
Over time the shops of Seventh and Ninth streets became a bargain-rate alternative to downtown’s fancy department stores. There were juke joints, Irish saloons, storefront evangelists, delicatessens, and dozens of schools and houses of worship. As the city expanded, Shaw’s older housing became more affordable but crowded. In 1966 planners worked with local church leaders to create the Shaw School Urban Renewal District and improve conditions. Then in 1968, destructive riots followed the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Years later the community has succeeded in creating the mix of new and old that you’ll experience along Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail.
Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing highlights of the 17 trail markers, is available in English and Spanish at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
Bishop C. M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace and a mass baptism in the Potomac, 1934.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 13 of 17.)
Location. 38° 54.343′ N, 77° 1.216′ W. Marker is in Shaw, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on M Street, NW, west of 6th Street, NW, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Reaching for Equality (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Seventh Street Develops (about 700 feet away); Immaculate Conception Catholic School (approx. 0.2 miles away); Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Power Brokers (approx. 0.2 miles away); Community Anchors (approx. 0.2 miles away); Words and Deeds (approx. 0.2 miles away); Blanche K. Bruce House (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shaw.
Also see . . .
1. United House of Prayer for All People. (Submitted on February 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Charles M. "Daddy" Grace (1881-1960). ...A combination of Daddy Grace's grandiosity, his followers' intense devotion, and popular confusion between Grace and the controversial Father Divine caused (Submitted on February 20, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. Marcelino Manuel da Graça; Cape Verdean Americans.
Categories. • African Americans • Churches & Religion • Notable Buildings • Notable Persons •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 28, 2017. This page originally submitted on February 19, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 5,078 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on February 19, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4, 5, 6. submitted on October 27, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 7, 8. submitted on October 27, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.