Black History Permeates Nation's Capital

The Park Service also administers the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, where the National Council of Negro Women was founded. Bethune, who founded Florida's Bethune-Cookman College, was a confidante of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The district is also home to the African-American Civil War Memorial. The 15-foot bronze statue features the images of black troops and sailors as well as so-called contraband slaves liberated by Union forces during the war. Stainless steel plaques are inscribed with the names of 209,145 soldiers and 19,000 sailors who served with Union forces.

"Virtually every black family in the United States has a name on this wall," said Frank Smith, executive director of the African American Civil War Museum. The home of Carter G. Woodson, the educator considered the "father" of black history month, is undergoing preservation nearby.

African-American Heritage Trail

Cultural Tourism D.C. has worked with the city government, the National Park Service and others to promote a local African- American Heritage Trail.

"There are more than 60 museums off the National Mall that people seldom find," said Kathryn S. Smith, consulting historian on the project.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education decision. The 1954 Supreme Court decision declaring "separate but equal, inherently unequal," cleared the way for integration. During the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War, the Lincoln Memorial and surrounding National Mall were the rallying points for Americans fighting for social justice.

The Lincoln Memorial was the site of opera singer Marian Anderson's Easter concert, after she was barred from performing at DAR Constitution Hall.

"The steps of the Lincoln Memorial were just etched last year with the words from Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech," said Victoria Isley, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Council.

Dressed in Sunday Best

At the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum, the photo-essay "Crowns" includes 30 portrait-quality black-and-white photographs of black women. Although the subjects were homemakers, domestics, and others who did menial jobs, they used their day of worship to add fashion and flair to their lives.

"Sunday was a day that they could really get dressed up," said Michael Cunningham, the photographer who produced the work. Five of the hats, passed down from one generation to the next, are also included in the exhibit.

The Recorder of Deeds office features murals that depict eminent blacks including Douglass, Banneker, Revolutionary War patriot Crispus Attucks, North Pole explorer Matthew Henson, and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, a decorated Union Army unit that included Sgt. William H. Carney, the first black American to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. The murals were painted during the Great Depression by artists employed in the New Deal's Works Progress Administration. Since 1881, when Frederick Douglass was appointed Recorder of Deeds, that position has been held almost exclusively by blacks.

At Lincoln Park, the Freedmen's Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln was financed with donations from freed slaves, primarily those who'd served in the Union Army. It depicts Lincoln cutting the chains of slavery, symbolizing his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The slave depicted in the work is believed to be Alexander Archer, the last man captured under the Fugitive Slave Act.

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