HumanitiesDC is committed to preserving the rich history of our communities and neighborhoods—and our latest grants are a testament to that work. Please join us in offering an enthusiastic welcome to this year’s grantees for the DC Community Heritage Project, as well as to our first-ever class of grantees for the DC Oral History Collaborative! We are very excited to see your projects grow.
Read on to learn more about our grantees and their exciting work!
DC Oral History Collaborative Partnership Grantees
Buzzard Point Oral History Project
Buzzard Point is an industrial area in Washington D.C. that is currently being redeveloped. It will be the site of the largest PEPCO substation in the city and the new DC United soccer stadium as well as new high-rise condominiums and retail. Current construction involves remediating polluted sites and puts fugitive dust and other pollutants into the air, while displacing rodents into nearby homes and yards. Conducting oral history interviews with existing residents living adjacent to Buzzard Point as it undergoes these transformations—especially those living in public housing—will document their family history in the neighborhood, relationship to the community and to the adjacent Anacostia River, and experiences with pollution and gentrification.
Race and Cultural Identity in Latino DC: Collective Memory and the Mt. Pleasant Riots
A mention of the “DC riots” generally invokes the 1968 disturbances which rocked the District and transformed the face of the city for decades to come. However, another violent affair marks a watershed moment in the history of the Latino community in Washington, DC: the Mt. Pleasant riots of 1991. This three-day uprising in a neighborhood praised as a model of multiculturalism defined a generation of black and Latino youth and led to sweeping changes in how DC city government treated its Latino residents. This project seeks to understand both the reasons for and the consequences of this event through in-depth oral histories with those involved in the riots and those who witnessed them: participants, bystanders, business owners, police officers, government officials, and other community members. The narrative is highly contested, and existing documents provide often radically different accounts. Oral history will thus play an essential role in this study of the riots.
Open for Business: Black Broadway on U
This oral history project will explore the intersection of black culture and commerce during the 1920s-60s in the historic U Street Corridor, when the 20-block strip had thriving black-owned businesses (over 300 by 1920) that rivaled Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and Harlem. This black business history and cultural legacy amid Jim Crow segregation in Washington, DC, is widely unknown. Therefore, it’s imperative that we document this history via oral history interviews before it is lost amid today’s rapidly shrinking black business district in the U St. corridor due to cultural displacement and escalating commercial property rental rates.
Howard Nursing History Project
The Howard Nursing History Project will explore the experiences and reflections of the women who were involved in the transition of the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing diploma program into the baccalaureate program within Howard University. The development of nursing education within Howard University in the late 1960s opened up a new world of professional opportunities previously unknown to past generations of black nurses. Educated with a college degree, these women would go on to pursue graduate degrees, participate in new forms of leadership, become academics and researchers, and advance the nursing profession. Oral history is an excellent method to tell the stories of the women who lived this history and to learn first-hand about their experiences and challenges, their hopes and dreams. This is an untold story—one that has significance for Howard University, for the District of Columbia, and the nursing profession at large.
Anacostia Unmapped 2.0
Anacostia Unmapped is a project that highlights the vast history and rapid change of the communities East of the River. This 9-month project documented the stories of elders and new residents East of the River from their homes and porches as they spoke into a digital recorder. Approximately 30 interviews were conducted in this way, and then edited down to 3 to 7 min segments aired on WAMU radio. The website Anacostiaunmapped.com currently houses these interviews for future listeners. This new project will build upon Anacostia Unmapped’s previous work, allowing for the editing and publication of additional materials and the gathering of new oral histories from prominent members of communities east of the river.
The Intersection of Whitman-Walker Health and HIV/AIDS in DC
HIV has had a significant impact in DC, with prevalence rates of infection around 2.5 percent in 2015. Whitman-Walker Health has been on the front lines of caring for people dying of AIDS and living with HIV since the 1980s, and Whitman-Walker continues to be a leader in serving people living with HIV to live full, healthy lives. Many social factors–housing, race, and stigma—have a tremendous impact on the experience of living with HIV and the course of illness. This oral history project will spotlight these complexities and the successes and challenges of fighting HIV/AIDS from the start of the epidemic to present-day DC, including Whitman-Walker Health’s long history providing affirming HIV care. Oral histories are the ideal tool to explore this rich history around the experiences of individuals living with HIV, how their personal stories parallel advances in treating HIV, and the intersection of Whitman-Walker history with that of the HIV epidemic in DC.
DC Jazz Festival Oral History Project
DC Jazz Festival
To capture the history and topical insights of DC jazz elders who have contributed to jazz in Washington, DC. To interview key living contributors, including: musicians, historians, educators, media, presenters. Other oral history projects have not specifically focused on DC jazz history. Oral history interviews will enable the DC Jazz Festival to digitally preserve and archive insights of jazz community elders and key living contributors such as musicians, historians, elders, and more, who have built and sustain jazz in DC—sharing their knowledge with future generations. This project will also support collaboration with the Jazz History Database project of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which will transcribe interviews. JHDB is an interactive jazz history multimedia virtual museum, digitizing and preserving materials collected in the field, subsequently arranged by geographic location. Little is being done broadly to preserve materials related to jazz artists and organizations that have made a major impact in this geographic region, and this project will be a bold step in preserving DC’s unique history.
Mapping Segregation in Washington DC: School Integration in Ward 4
Prologue DC, LLC
The Prologue DC oral history project will document the racial transformation of Ward 4 neighborhoods and schools during the 1950s and early 60s. Through the previous public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington, DC, Prologue staff have met many individuals who experienced the racial transition of Ward 4 neighborhoods, e.g. African Americans who were the first black residents of their block and whites who continued to attend neighborhood schools after 1954. It makes sense to focus on Ward 4 because it was nearly 100 percent white until the late 1940s, and then underwent major racial change after the US Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional in 1954. Oral history is the best tool for this research because the stories these kinds of interviews uncover—often undramatic yet richly informative—have not and cannot be documented by other means. Prologue DC aims to interview ten individuals who lived in Ward 4 and/or attended DC public schools in the ward between 1954 and the early 1960s.
ARTS DC: CETA and the Arts in the District of Columbia 1977 – 1982
Video interviews will preserve the history of ARTS DC, a CETA arts program that employed over 300 theater artists, musicians, painters, dancers, poets, and other artists and arts workers in over 100 District of Columbia theaters, dance companies, galleries, music ensembles, and other arts organizations from 1977 to 1982. Artists who were employed in ARTS DC-funded jobs will reflect on their ARTS DC experience, how the ARTS DC job affected their artistic careers and lives, and the impact of the program on the DC arts community. Oral history is an ideal tool to connect the stories of individual artists with the larger historical narrative of the DC arts community and of federal support of arts employment going back to the Work Projects Administration of the 1930s, and to document how the District’s use of federal CETA funds for arts employment was different from that of other cities. Interviews will continue to be added to the ARTS DC Oral History Archive as more funding is obtained.
DC’s Fight For Affordable Housing and an End to Gentrification and Homelessness
This project will focus on gathering oral histories from people who have been involved in the fight for affordable housing and an end to gentrification and homelessness since as far back as 1968 —following the King riots. It will uncover the history of the struggle—from redlining, to the redevelopment of areas destroyed by the riots, to the creation of urban renewal projects (some of which trace back to the 1950″s) and bring it up to today’s lack of affordable housing stock. This project will seek to capture the story of DC’s changing neighborhoods, demographic, shifts, and gentrification. Oral history is ideal for capturing the wisdom of community elders and for helping younger generations to understand past struggles and plan for the future.
DC Community Heritage Project Grantees
Preserving the Heritage of Our Civil War Forts
Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington
The Alliance seeks to plan and promote, and participate in the annual Battle of Ft. Stevens commemoration day; a bus tour of the forts that were involved in the battle; and talks and presentations to school and civic groups to feature the historic role of the forts in their communities and DC. The bus tour will include specific efforts to involve DC public school students throughout the city; 10 seats will be reserved at no charge for such students. Products will include a photographic and video records and report, with a photographic survey of other key Civil War forts in the Washington region.
The 9 Lives of the Blue Castle—A Hands On History Project
Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts
The Blue Castle is one of the most enigmatic buildings in DC. Located at the base of 8th St SE directly across from La Trobe Gate at the Washington Naval Yard, it is an interesting sight. Some people might even consider it an eyesore. Visitors to the Navy Yard, 9th St, and Nats Ballpark often ask about the history of the building. The Blue Castle has served as many things to many people over its history, and it has undergone many transformations. This project will explore each one of its identities, from its beginnings as a Car Barn and its current use as a school. Students will research, record, and film the information they discover about the Blue Castle and will preserve it in a mini-documentary. The hands-on, multidisciplinary project will incorporate elements of history, journalism, math, graphic art, photography, film, and composition, helping them to apply their skills creatively.
James Reese Europe American Legion Post 5 Archival Project
James Reese Europe American Legion Post 5
Founded in 1919, the James Reese Europe American Legion Post 5 is an all-African American vererans’ organization. Headquarted since 1954 on North Capitol St, Post 5 boasted a membership of hundreds during its heyday. Over the years, however, membership in black civic organizations like the Post has diminished. Post 5 is committed to ensuring that its history becomes a part of the community memory and the important stories embedded in the Post’s history is a source of inspriation and encouragement to others. The Community Heritage Project grant will allow for the Post to complete the archiving of its extensive historical materials, make them available to outside researchers, and allow for the sharing of materials publicly on the Post’s website as well.
St Anthony of Padua Photo Archives Exhibit: 1892 to 2017: Immigration and Integration
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church
The project will produce an exhibit of previously unseen photographs from the St. Anthony of Padua Archives. These photographs tell the story of a nascent suburban community and its transformation into a city neighborhood. Early photos show Brookland in its early state: sparsely developed. Later photographs show now altered interiors of buildings at Catholic University and the Mayflower Hotel. There are many photographs of parish and community events in Brookland as well. The exhibit will share photos never seen before by the public and show the evolution of the community through the 20th and 21st centuries. Photos will also chronicle the changing immigrant groups who have made up the St. Anthony/Brookland community as well as the increasing racial integration that is part of the churhc’s history.
Belonging—The Seafarers Yacht Club
Double Nickels Theatre Company
The founder of the Seafarers Yacht Club, his son, the current Commodore, and several of the oldest current Captains, among others, will have their stories recorded on video. The participants will be asked to recall and give insight on the topic of “being and belonging.” Their stories will be collected and artists will work to create sketches of the stories as they are told. The stories will accompany the drawing and become a part of a story and art exhibit. In partnership with the Phillips Collection, this project will ensure cross-generationsal, cultural, and ethnic enrichment.
Choose your story, learn your history: Self-guided LGBT History Tours in Dupont Circle
Rainbow History Project
The Rainbow History Project’s mission is to document, archive, and make LGBT history accessible as part of creating a more robust and nuanced understanding of Washington’s history. In addition to collecting historic paperwork and recording oral history interviews, RHP presents neighborhood histories through eight different guided and self-guided tours of historic LGBT places. The current grant allows for updates to current walking tour materials, as well as expanded social geography research into new neighborhoods for future tours.
Rhode Island Ave NE Heritage Project
Friends of Rhode Island Ave NE
This project will highlight the heritage of Rhode Island Ave NE and its surrounding neighborhoods through the stories and lives of the people who live there. Friends of Rhode Island Ave NE will conduct an outreach campaign to find the stories and narratives that document local heritage. The project will promote and foster cross-cultural appreciation and awareness as it explores the community by engaging residents, businesses, places of worship, restaurants, and more—learning how each has helped to shape the area. Stories and materials gathered through the project will be compiled into a report, incorporated into the community’s signature “Fall Fest,” and used to help revitalize the community as it connects past, present, and future.
Urban Agriculture in Central Northeast: The Trailblazers
The project will develop a history of community-owned food sources in Ward 7 from the 1940s to the present. The project will examine the development of urban agriculture, cooperative grocery stores, and fishing practices through the eyes of the community members in Northeast. The final product will be a public collection of oral history interviews, and will be used to create an educational timeline detailing the history of food access in DC.