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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Brightwood in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

An African American Enclave

Battleground to Community

 

—Brightwood Heritage Trail —

 
An African American Enclave Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
1. An African American Enclave Marker
Inscription. Even Before Emancipation freed Washington's enslaved people in April 1862, a free African American community had developed here amid the European American farmers. The District of Columbia, unlike its neighbors, permitted the formerly enslaved to remain within its boundaries. The Shamwell family of free blacks settled in Brightwood in 1837. By 1854, four free black landowners clustered here along Rock Creek Ford Road (once Milkhouse Ford Road), with a fifth on Piney Branch Road. Four of the five were women.

During the Civil War, Fort Stevens and Camp Brightwood attracted more freedmen and women seeking work and protection. For the next 90 years, black families worked the land, remaining in substantial wood-framed housese even as surrounding farms fell to subdivsions. St. Luke Baptist Church, founded near Fort Totten in 1879,occupied this corner for 29 years. It was the heart of the community. But city redevelopment forced it to move in 1960. The congregation relocated south to Colorado Avenue and later 1415 Gallatin Street, NW.

Brightwood's first public school for black children, known as Military Road School, opened at the end of the Civil War in a small wood-frame building close to the school's present site.

Over time, modern development consumed most of the old settlement. Some families, like
An African American Enclave Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
2. An African American Enclave Marker
the Shamwells, refused to sell (their former house remains enveloped by apartments). But by 1931 new roads and apartments had displaced most of the houses. Soon the modern Doreen and other apartments dominated Rock Creek Ford Road.
 
Erected 2008 by Cultural Heritage DC. (Marker Number 7.)
 
Location. 38° 57.798′ N, 77° 2.011′ W. Marker is in Brightwood, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 14th Street NW and Rock Creek Ford Road NW on 14th Street NW. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6040 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20011, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Military Road School (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Early Entrepreneurs (about 700 feet away); School Days (about 700 feet away); Never Again Such Homes At the Price! (approx. 0.2 miles away); Aunt Betty's Story (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fort Stevens (approx. 0.2 miles away); “Get Down You Fool” (approx. ¼ mile away); Lincoln Under Fire at Fort Stevens (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Brightwood.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Follow the Brightwood Heritage Trail.
 
Also see . . .
An African American Enclave Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
3. An African American Enclave Marker
 Brightwood Heritage Trail. (Submitted on March 30, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.)
 
Categories. African AmericansEducationWar, US Civil
 
An African American Enclave Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
4. An African American Enclave Marker
Camp Brightwood image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
5. Camp Brightwood
Three formerly enslaved young men found work with Union soldiers at Camp Brightwood.
Close-up of photo on marker
St. Luke Baptist Church occupied this corner for 29 years image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
6. St. Luke Baptist Church occupied this corner for 29 years
Close-up of photo on marker
Sunday Program at SLBA image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
7. Sunday Program at SLBA
A Sunday program around 1940 featured Blanche-Coghill, Kathleen Carter, Lottie Turner, Isabelle-Chichester Wright, Nannie White, Carolyn Russell, and Alma Jean Turner.
Close-up of photo on marker
US Census Form image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
8. US Census Form
The 1930 Census described residents of the 1400 block of Rock Creek Ford Road.
Close-up of photo on marker
1400 Block of Rock Creek Road. image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
9. 1400 Block of Rock Creek Road.
Close-up of photo on marker
Apartments image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
10. Apartments
In the 1940s, apartments began to replace the enclave's houses.
Close-up of photo on marker
Earl Shamwell, 1920 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
11. Earl Shamwell, 1920
Earl Shamwell, Sr. age 10, at home at 1348 Fort Stevens Drive, 1920. Indoor plumbing came to the house about the time the apartments were built.
Close-up of photo on marker
African American Settlement, 1940 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
12. African American Settlement, 1940
A house in the African American settlement of Rock Creek Road, around 1940.
Close-up of photo on reverse of marker
You Are Here image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, May 18, 2013
13. You Are Here
Close-up of Brightwood Heritage Trail map on marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 21, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 30, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 515 times since then and 36 times this year. Last updated on April 6, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on March 30, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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