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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

8 historic D.C. homes once owned by African-American icons

From Duke Ellington to Langston Hughes, see where these celebrities once lived in the nation’s capital

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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
| Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

There are a myriad of historical sites in Washington, D.C., dedicated to celebrating and preserving African-American history. In honor of Black History Month, Curbed DC has compiled a list of residences formerly owned by significant African-American civil rights leaders, writers, and musicians. Many of these homes have been designated National Historic Sites.

If there were any residences left off, be sure to let Curbed DC know in the comments or email the tipline.

Note: The mapped locations have been ordered geographically, from the most north to the most south.

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Duke Ellington’s Home

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D.C. native and Jazz legend Edward “Duke” Ellington lived in this townhome temporarily from 1919 to 1922. This is one of five other houses in Washington, D.C. that Ellington lived in. Also bearing his name is the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which was founded approximately 40 years from now.

Photo via Redfin

Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Home

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One of the most honored African-American poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar, lived in this LeDroit Park home from 1898 to 1902. In his life, Dunbar went on to receive a ceremonial sword from President Theodore Roosevelt as well as publish 12 volumes of poetry and a play.

Photo via HomeVisit

Mary Church Terrell House

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Mary Church Terrell, the first African-American woman to serve on an American school board and the founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women, formerly lived in this LeDroit Park home. It has since become a National Historic Landmark, declared so in 1975. In 2009, a restoration effort was completed on the home.

There is also a mixed-use complex in Chinatown that bears Terrell’s name.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Shujenchang

Langston Hughes’s Home

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Langston Hughes’s presence can be seen far and wide in Washington, D.C. For one, the popular bookstore, bar, and restaurant known as Busboys & Poets has a name that is meant to refer to Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. He only lived in D.C. for one year and four months before moving to Pennsylvania and New York. During his time here, he published his first book of poems and was a researcher for Carter G. Woodson. He also temporarily lived at the 12th Street YMCA.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/dbking

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

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Carter G. Woodson is known as the founder of Black History Month, being one of the first scholars to study African-American history. Because of this, he has also been known as the father of black history. In this former home of Woodson, he managed the operations of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History as well as published the Negro History Bulletin and the Journal of Negro History. Until the early 1970s, the property continued to serve as the Association’s headquarters.

In 1976, the residence was designated a National Historic Landmark before being labeled a National Historic Site in 2003. The National Park Service acquired the property in 2005 and opened it to the public in 2017.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, DC-369-2

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

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This three-story Victorian home was once the residence of Mary McLeod Bethune as well as the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune is known for having started a private school for African-American students in Florida as well as being a national adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of what was known as the Black Cabinet.

The home and its carriage house were restored in the mid-1970s before opening as a museum in 1981. Thereafter, the American Institute of Architects awarded the restoration effort a historic preservation citation of merit.

The exterior of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington D.C. The facade is red with white decorative trim on the windows and door. Photo via Wikimedia Commons/McGhiever

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

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This 21-room Victorian residence in Anacostia is preserved as a National Historic Site, acting as a museum to the life and efforts of writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. When Douglass lived in the home, he named it Cedar Hill.

After Douglass passed away in 1895, the house was owned by the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association and later the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs before the federal government took ownership of the residence. Also on the site is a visitor center and a reconstruction of the building where Douglass went to write and study.

Frederick Douglass House Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Aude

Thurgood Marshall’s Home

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As noted on a plaque in front of the Capitol Park IV Condominium development, Thurgood Marshall previously resided in the Southwest Waterfront. Marshall previously served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and was the nation’s first African-American justice.

Photo courtesy of Capitol Park IV Condominium

Duke Ellington’s Home

Photo via Redfin

D.C. native and Jazz legend Edward “Duke” Ellington lived in this townhome temporarily from 1919 to 1922. This is one of five other houses in Washington, D.C. that Ellington lived in. Also bearing his name is the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which was founded approximately 40 years from now.

Photo via Redfin

Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Home

Photo via HomeVisit

One of the most honored African-American poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar, lived in this LeDroit Park home from 1898 to 1902. In his life, Dunbar went on to receive a ceremonial sword from President Theodore Roosevelt as well as publish 12 volumes of poetry and a play.

Photo via HomeVisit

Mary Church Terrell House

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Shujenchang

Mary Church Terrell, the first African-American woman to serve on an American school board and the founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women, formerly lived in this LeDroit Park home. It has since become a National Historic Landmark, declared so in 1975. In 2009, a restoration effort was completed on the home.

There is also a mixed-use complex in Chinatown that bears Terrell’s name.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Shujenchang

Langston Hughes’s Home

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/dbking

Langston Hughes’s presence can be seen far and wide in Washington, D.C. For one, the popular bookstore, bar, and restaurant known as Busboys & Poets has a name that is meant to refer to Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel. He only lived in D.C. for one year and four months before moving to Pennsylvania and New York. During his time here, he published his first book of poems and was a researcher for Carter G. Woodson. He also temporarily lived at the 12th Street YMCA.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/dbking

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, DC-369-2

Carter G. Woodson is known as the founder of Black History Month, being one of the first scholars to study African-American history. Because of this, he has also been known as the father of black history. In this former home of Woodson, he managed the operations of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History as well as published the Negro History Bulletin and the Journal of Negro History. Until the early 1970s, the property continued to serve as the Association’s headquarters.

In 1976, the residence was designated a National Historic Landmark before being labeled a National Historic Site in 2003. The National Park Service acquired the property in 2005 and opened it to the public in 2017.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, DC-369-2

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

The exterior of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington D.C. The facade is red with white decorative trim on the windows and door. Photo via Wikimedia Commons/McGhiever

This three-story Victorian home was once the residence of Mary McLeod Bethune as well as the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune is known for having started a private school for African-American students in Florida as well as being a national adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of what was known as the Black Cabinet.

The home and its carriage house were restored in the mid-1970s before opening as a museum in 1981. Thereafter, the American Institute of Architects awarded the restoration effort a historic preservation citation of merit.

The exterior of the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington D.C. The facade is red with white decorative trim on the windows and door. Photo via Wikimedia Commons/McGhiever

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Frederick Douglass House Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Aude

This 21-room Victorian residence in Anacostia is preserved as a National Historic Site, acting as a museum to the life and efforts of writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. When Douglass lived in the home, he named it Cedar Hill.

After Douglass passed away in 1895, the house was owned by the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association and later the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs before the federal government took ownership of the residence. Also on the site is a visitor center and a reconstruction of the building where Douglass went to write and study.

Frederick Douglass House Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Aude

Thurgood Marshall’s Home

Photo courtesy of Capitol Park IV Condominium

As noted on a plaque in front of the Capitol Park IV Condominium development, Thurgood Marshall previously resided in the Southwest Waterfront. Marshall previously served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and was the nation’s first African-American justice.

Photo courtesy of Capitol Park IV Condominium