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Walking tour of Bloomingdale to highlight history of segregation in D.C.

The tour will proceed along First Street NW and is scheduled for April 14

Rowhouses in Bloomingdale
David Harmantas/Shutterstock

Set for the weekend of D.C. Emancipation Day, which marks the 1862 abolition of slavery in the District, a walking tour of Bloomingdale will examine historically significant sites in the fight against racially restrictive deed covenants that barred African Americans from buying homes in the Northwest neighborhood when developers originally built it out around 1900.

The tour is planned for April 14 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will be led by Sarah Shoenfeld, a co-director of “Mapping Segregation in Washington DC,” which is a special project that has received funding from Humanities DC, the DC Preservation League, and the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program. Prologue DC, Shoenfeld’s firm, will offer the tour along with Hill Center, a nonprofit run by the Old Naval Hospital Foundation.

The tour sites are located along and near First Street NW, which Prologue DC describes as Bloomingdale’s “premier architectural corridor [but] also a racial barrier” throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. “Civil rights attorneys chipped away at this dividing line in the 1920s [to] 1940s,” the firm explains, noting that the neighborhood “became a national epicenter of legal challenges to racial covenants.” Those covenants restricted rowhouses to white families during this time, despite that many African-American families resided nearby.

The “Mapping Segregation” project includes interactive GIS data and spans D.C. Registering for the tour—to begin at the park across from Big Bear Cafe at First and R streets NW—costs $15 per adult and $10 per child, plus additional $1 fees. Bloomingdale was officially named a historic district last year in part because of its role in the struggle for housing desegregation.