Feb 8, 2024 - News

D.C.'s Black history mapped in new interactive tool

A picture of Duke Ellington posing outside the White House

Duke Ellington in 1931 outside the White House after meeting President Herbert Hoover. Photo: Bettmann

D.C. recently launched a new interactive map tracing over two centuries of African American history and culture in Washington.

Why it matters: The map, which marks nearly 300 city locations of significance, shows how Black Washingtonians shaped the nation's capital, which was known until recently as "Chocolate City."

  • You can learn about how astronomer Benjamin Banneker in 1792 set the boundary stones for the newly established nation's capital, along with countless schools, businesses, and churches that were community pillars for many Black Washingtonians over the years.

How it works: Users can scroll through the landmarks compiled by the D.C. Office of Planning.

  • The map is broken up into themes of institutions, people, business, leisure, protest, commemoration, and remembrance.
  • There are also on the map 15 walking tours of the African American Heritage Trail, which altogether includes 100 sites.

Thought bubble: One thing I learned was that Duke Ellington was born at 2129 Ward Place NW on April 29, 1889.

  • Currently, the site has an apartment building, according to the map. Ellington's mother was a native Washingtonian and his father was from North Carolina.
  • Ellington went on to become a legendary jazz musician and a celebrity on Black Broadway on U Street.
  • The Duke Ellington School for the Arts was dedicated in 1974.

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