History of Washington, D.C.

History of Washington, D.C.

The history of Washington, D.C. (officially known as the District of Columbia) is tied to its role as the capital of the United States. The site along the Potomac River was chosen for the capital city by George Washington. The city came under attack during the War of 1812 in an episode known as the Burning of Washington. Upon return to the capital, numerous public buildings including the White House and United States Capitol Building needed to be rebuilt. The McMillan Plan of 1901 helped restore and beautify the downtown core area, including establishing the National Mall, along with numerous monuments and museums.

Slavery was abolished throughout the District on April 16, 1862, though the city remained racially segregated until the 1950s. During the early 20th century, the U Street Corridor served as an important center for African American culture. After desegregation, racial tensions remained high in the city and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 sparked major riots. Following the riots, large sections of the city remained blighted areas. The Washington Metro opened in 1976, and gentrification in the late 1990s and early 2000s revitalized many neighborhoods.

Article One, Section 8, of the United States Constitution places the District (which is not a state) under the exclusive legislation of the Congress. Throughout its history, Washington, D.C., residents have therefore lacked voting representation in the Congress. The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961, gave the District representation in the Electoral College. The 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act provided the local government more control of affairs, including direct election of the city council and mayor.

Early settlement

Archaeological evidence indicates Native Americans settled in the area around the Anacostia River approximately 4000 years ago. [cite journal |author=MacCord, Howard A. |title=Archeology of the Anacostia Valley of Washington, D.C. and Maryland |journal=Journal of Washington Academy of Sciences |volume=47(12) |year=1957] In 1608, Captain John Smith became the first European to explore the region. [cite book |title=A Sketch of the Natural History of the District of Columbia |author=McAtee, Waldo Lee |publisher=H.L. & J.B. McQueen |year=1918 |pages=p. 5] At the time, Powhatan tribe resided south of the Potomac River, and an Algonquian people known as the Piscataway resided on the north bank.cite book |author=Humphrey, Robert L., Mary Elizabeth Chambers |title=Ancient Washington: American Indian Cultures of the Potomac Valley |publisher=George Washington University |year=1977 |pages=p 23]

European settlers arrived in the following decades, pushing the natives west. Two towns developed in the area that would eventually become the District of Columbia. The city of Alexandria, Virginia, was founded in 1749 and Georgetown, Maryland, was first settled in 1751. Built in 1765, the Old Stone House is located in Georgetown and is the oldest standing building in the District.


From March 1781 the government of the Articles of Confederation and the Congress of the Confederation were situated in Philadelphia. In June 1783, a mob of angry soldiers converged upon Independence Hall to demand payment for their service during the American Revolutionary War. Congress requested that John Dickinson, the governor of Pennsylvania, call up the militia to defend Congress from attacks by the protesters. In what became known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, Dickinson sympathized with the protesters and refused to remove them from Philadelphia. As a result, Congress was forced to flee to Princeton, New Jersey on June 21, 1783. [cite book |last=Crew |first=Harvey W. |coauthors=William Bensing Webb, John Wooldridge |title=Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C. |publisher=United Brethren Publishing House |date=1892 |location=Dayton, Ohio |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=5Q81AAAAIAAJ |pages=66]

Dickinson's failure to protect the institutions of the national government was discussed at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The delegates therefore agreed in Article One, Section 8, of the United States Constitution to give the Congress the power:

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;

James Madison, writing in the Federalist No. 43, also argued that the national capital needed to be distinct from the states, in order to provide for its own maintenance and safety. [ cite web|url=http://thomas.loc.gov/home/fedpapers/fed_43.html |title=The Federalist No. 43 |accessdate=2008-05-31 |last=Madison |first=James |date=1996-04-30 |work=The Independent Journal |publisher=Library of Congress ] The Constitution, however, does not select a specific site for the location of the new District. Proposals from the legislatures of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia all offered territory for the location of the national capital. Northern states preferred a capital located in one of the nation's prominent cities, unsurprisingly, almost all of which were in the north. Conversely, Southern states preferred that the capital be located closer to their agricultural and slave-holding interests. [cite book |last=Crew |first=Harvey W. |coauthors=William Bensing Webb, John Wooldridge |title=Centennial History of the City of Washington, D. C. |publisher=United Brethren Publishing House |date=1892 |location=Dayton, Ohio |url=http://books.google.com/books?id=5Q81AAAAIAAJ |pages=67-80] The selection of the area around the Potomac River for the new national capital was agreed upon between James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had a proposal for the new federal government to take over debts accrued by the states during the Revolutionary War. However, by 1790, Southern states had largely repaid their overseas debts. Hamilton's proposal would effectively mean that Southern states would be forced to assume a share of Northern debt. Jefferson and Madison agreed to this proposal but in return lobbied for a federal capital located in the South.cite book |last=Morison |first=Samuel Eliot |title=The Oxford History of the American People, Vol. 2 |publisher=Meridian |year=1972 |chapter=Washington's First Administration: 1789-1793]

On December 23, 1788, the Maryland General Assembly passed an act, allowing it to cede land for the federal district. The Virginia General Assembly followed suit on December 3, 1789.cite book |title=The National Capitol: its architecture, art, and history |author=Hazelton, George C. |publisher=J.F. Taylor |year=1903 |pages=p. 2] The signing of the Residence Act on July 6, 1790, mandated that a site, not exceeding "ten miles square" (100 square miles), be located on the "River Potomac, at some place between the mouths of the Eastern Branch (known today as the Anacostia River) and Connogocheque (a location near Williamsport, Maryland)" for the permanent seat of government.cite journal |author=Stewart, John |title=Early Maps and Surveyors of the City of Washington, D.C |journal=Records of the Columbia Historical Society |date=1899 |volume=2 |pages=p. 49]

The Residence Act authorized the President to select the actual location of the site. However, President Washington wished to include the town of Alexandria within the federal district. To accomplish this, the boundaries of the federal district would need to encompass an area on the Potomac that was downstream of the mouth of the Eastern Branch.

The U.S. Congress amended the Residence Act in 1791 to permit Alexandria's inclusion in the federal district. However, some members of Congress had recognized that Washington and his family owned property in and near Alexandria, which was just seven miles (11 km) upstream from Mount Vernon, Washington's home and plantation. The amendment therefore contained a provision that prohibited the construction of federal office buildings on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.cite book |title=The National Capitol: its architecture, art, and history |author=Hazelton, George C. |publisher=J.F. Taylor |year=1903 |pages=p. 4]

The final site was just below the fall line on the Potomac, the furthest inland point navigable by boats. It included the ports of Georgetown and Alexandria. The process of establishing the federal district, however, faced other challenges in the form of strong objections from landowners such as David Burns who owned a large, convert|650|acre|ha|sing=on tract of land in the heart of the district. On March 30, 1791, Burns and eighteen other key landowners relented and signed an agreement with Washington, where they would be compensated for any land taken for public use, half of remaining land would be distributed among the proprietors, and the other half to the public.

Pursuant to the Residence Act, President Washington appointed three commissioners (Thomas Johnson, Daniel Carroll, and David Stuart) in 1791 to supervise the planning, design and acquisition of property in the federal district and capital city. In September 1791, the three commissioners agreed to name the Federal District as "The Territory of Columbia," and the Federal city "The City of Washington."cite journal |author=Stewart, John |title=Early Maps and Surveyors of the City of Washington, D.C |journal=Records of the Columbia Historical Society |date=1899 |volume=2 |pages=p. 53]

Working under the general supervision of the three commissioners and at the direction of President Washington, Major Andrew Ellicott, with assistants including his brother, Joseph Ellicott, Isaac Briggs, George Fenwick, and an African American, Benjamin Banneker, surveyed the borders of the Territory of Columbia with Virginia and Maryland during 1791 and 1792. [cite book |title=Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters |chapter=Chapter IV: The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia, 1791-1793 |author=Mathews, Catharine Van Cortlandt |date=1908 |publisher=Grafton Press |pages=p.85-86] The survey began at Jones Point, a cape located at the confluence of Hunting Creek and the Potomac River south of Alexandria.

The survey team enclosed within a square an area containing the full 100 square miles that the Residence Act had authorized. Each side of the square was 10 miles long. The axes between the corners of the square ran north–south and east–west. [ Boundary markers of the Nation's Capital: a proposal for their preservation & protection : a National Capital Planning Commission Bicentennial report. National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, DC, 1976; for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office] The north-south axis is now located between 17th and 18th Streets, NW; the east-west axis is between Constitution Avenue and C Street, NE and NW. [The north-south axis is a straight line connecting the north and south cornerstones of the original District of Columbia. The east-west axis is a straight line connecting the east and west cornerstones of the original District of Columbia. The map of the boundary stones in [http://www.boundarystones.org "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"] "in" [http://www.boundarystones.org website of boundary stones.org] (Accessed August 18, 2008) identifies the location of each cornerstone.] The center of the square is within the grounds of the Organization of American States headquarters west of the Ellipse. [Coordinates of the center of the square of the original District of Columbia: coord|38.893085|-77.040773|type:landmark|name=Center of the square of the original District of Columbia. The center of the square of the original District of Columbia is the crossing of the north-south axis line and the east-west axis line.]

The survey team placed sandstone boundary markers at or near every mile point along the sides of the square. Many of these markers still remain. The south cornerstone is at Jones Point. [Coordinates of the south cornerstone of the original District of Columbia: coord|38.7903461|-77.040596|type:landmark|name=South cornerstone of the original District of Columbia "from" [http://www.boundarystones.org "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"] "in" [http://www.boundarystones.org website of boundary stones.org] Accessed August 18, 2008.] The west cornerstone is at the west corner of Arlington County, Virginia. [Coordinates of the west cornerstone of the original District of Columbia: coord|38.8933522|-77.1723408|type:landmark|name=West cornerstone of the original District of Columbia "from" [http://www.boundarystones.org "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"] "in" [http://www.boundarystones.org website of boundary stones.org] Accessed August 18, 2008.] The north cornerstone is south of East-West Highway near Silver Spring, Maryland, west of 16th Street. [Coordinates of the north cornerstone of the original District of Columbia: coord|38.9959371|-77.0410332|type:landmark|name=North cornerstone of the original District of Columbia "from" [http://www.boundarystones.org "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"] "in" [http://www.boundarystones.org website of boundary stones.org] Accessed August 18, 2008. ] The east cornerstone is east of the intersection of Southern Avenue and Eastern Avenue. [Coordinates of the east cornerstone of the original District of Columbia: coord|38.8928553|-76.909277|type:landmark|name=East cornerstone of the original District of Columbia "from" [http://www.boundarystones.org "Boundary Stones of the District of Columbia"] "in" [http://www.boundarystones.org website of boundary stones.org] Accessed August 18, 2008.]

Plan of the City of Washington

In early 1791, President Washington appointed Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant to devise a plan for the new city in an area of land at the center of the federal territory that lay between the northeast shore of the Potomac River and the northwest shore of the Potomac's Eastern Branch. L'Enfant then designed in his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of the United States..." the city's first layout, a grid centered on the United States Capitol, which would stand at the top of a hill (Jenkins Hill) on a longitude designated as 0:0.cite book |title=Washington, City and Capital: Federal Writers' Project |publisher=Works Progress Administration / United States Government Printing Office |author=Federal Writers' Project |year=1937 |pages=p. 210] Wide diagonal avenues later named after the states of the union crossed the layout. [ [http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tri001.html Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government ...."] "in" [http://www.loc.gov official website of the U.S. Library of Congress] Accessed August 13, 2008. Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. contains an inlay of the central portion of L'Enfant's plan.]

The intersections of the diagonal avenues with narrower north-south and east-west streets were carved into grand circles and plazas which would later honor notable Americans. L'Enfant also laid out a wide "grand avenue", which he expected to travel on an east-west axis in the center of the area that the National Mall now occupies.

L'Enfant also designed a narrower avenue (Pennsylvania Avenue) which would connect the "Federal House" (Capitol) with the "President palace" (White House).citation |last=L'Enfant |first=Pierre Charles |title=Letter to the President of the United States |periodical=Records of the Columbia Historical Society |date=August 19, 1791 |publication-date= 1899 |volume=2 |pages=39] In time, Pennsylvania Avenue developed into the capital city's present "grand avenue".

The plan included a system of canals, one of which would travel near the western side of the Capitol at the base of Jenkins Hill. To be filled in part by the waters of Tiber Creek, the canal system would traverse the center of the city and would enter both the Potomac River and the Eastern Branch.

L'Enfant designed the street grid only as far as Boundary Street (later to be called Florida Avenue), which lay at the base of the fall line. On August 19, 1791, he presented his plan to President Washington.cite journal |author=Stewart, John |title=Early Maps and Surveyors of the City of Washington, D.C |journal=Records of the Columbia Historical Society |date=1899 |volume=2 |pages=52] However, in 1792, President Washington dismissed L'Enfant from federal service for insubordination to the three commissioners and for attempting to micromanage the city's construction. Further, L'Enfant had failed to have his plan published in a timely manner. [ [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/wash/lenfant.htm The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans] "in" [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/wash/"Washington, D.C., A National Register of Historic Places Travel Inventory"] "in" [http://www.nps.gov offical website of the U.S. National Park Service] Accessed August 14, 2008]

Following L'Enfant's dismissal, Washington and the commissioners appointed surveyor Andrew Ellicott to complete the planning and design of the capital city. [Bowling, Kenneth R., Creating the federal city, 1774-1800 : Potomac fever. American Institute of Architects Press, Washington, D.C., 1988] To L'Enfant's dismay, Ellicott soon revised the city's plan, straightening Massachusetts Avenue, eliminating several plazas and streets and giving names to the streets. [The U.S. National Archives holds a copy of "Ellicott's engraved Plan superimposed on the Plan of L'Enfant showing the changes made in the engraved Plan under the direction of President Washington". See "Scope & Contents" page of "Archival Description" for National Archives holding of "Miscellaneous Oversize Prints, Drawings and Posters of Projects Associated with the Commission of Fine Arts, compiled 1893 - 1950", ARC Identifier 518229/Local Identifier 66-M; Series from Record Group 66: Records of the Commission of Fine Arts, 1893 - 1981. Record of holding obtained through search in [http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc Archival Descriptions Search of ARC - Archival Research Catalog] using search term "L'Enfant Plan Ellicott", August 22, 2008.] Unlike L'Enfant, Ellicott was able to have his own plan engraved, published and distributed. [ [http://home.earthlink.net/~docktor/wmslogo.htm Washington Map Society: Plan of the City of Washington] ] As a result, Ellicott's "Plan of the City of Washington" became the basis for the capital city's future development.

In 1800, the seat of government was finally moved to the new city, and on February 27, 1801, the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 placed the District and the municipalities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria under the jurisdiction of Congress. The act also organized the unincorporated territory within the District into two counties: the County of Washington on the northeast bank of the Potomac, and the County of Alexandria on the southwest bank. On May 3, 1802, the City of Washington was granted a territorial government consisting of a mayor appointed by the President of the United States.

19th century

Economic development

The District of Columbia relied on Congress for support for capital improvements and economic development initiatives.cite book |title=Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. |publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press |year=1995] However, Congress lacked loyalty to the city's residents and was reluctant to provide support.

War of 1812

During the War of 1812, President James Madison and the fledgling U.S. government were forced to flee the District. The expedition was carried out between August 19 and August 29, 1814, and was well organized and vigorously executed. On the 24th, the American militia, which had collected at Bladensburg, Maryland, to protect the capital, retreated from the Capital City before it could be destroyed.

On August 24, 1814, British forces burned the capital during the most notably destructive raid of the war. British forces burned the most important public buildings, including the Presidential Mansion, the U.S. Capitol, the Arsenal, the Navy Yard, the Treasury Building, the War Office, and the bridge across the Potomac.

The British, however, spared the Marine Barracks at 8th and I streets, SE. It is said they spared the Barracks out of respect for the Marines who fought at the Battle of Bladensburg.Fact|date=February 2007


Almost immediately after the "Federal City" was laid out north of the Potomac, some residents south of the Potomac in Alexandria County, D.C. began petitioning to be returned to Virginia's jurisdiction. Over time, a larger movement grew to separate Alexandria from the District for several reasons:
* Alexandria's economy had stagnated as competition with the port of Georgetown, D.C. had begun to favor the north side of the Potomac, where most members of Congress and local federal officials resided.
* The Alexandria Canal, which connected the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to Alexandria, needed repairs, which the federal government was reluctant to fund.
* Alexandria's residents had lost representation and the right to vote at any level of government.
* Alexandria was a center for slave trading. There was increasing talk of abolition of slavery in the national capital. Alexandria's economy would suffer if slavery were outlawed in the District of Columbia.
* There was an active abolition movement in Virginia, and the pro-slavery forces held a slim majority in the Virginia General Assembly. (Eighteen years later, in the American Civil War, the most anti-slavery counties would secede from Virginia to form West Virginia.) If Alexandria and Alexandria County were retroceded to Virginia, they would provide two new pro-slavery representatives.

After a referendum, Alexandria County's citizens petitioned Congress and Virginia to return the area to Virginia. By an act of Congress on July 9, 1846, and with the approval of the Virginia General Assembly, the area south of the Potomac (39 square miles; 101 km²) was returned, or "retroceded," to Virginia effective in 1847. [ [http://www.citymuseumdc.org/gettoknow/faq.asp "Frequently Asked Questions About Washington, D.C"] , City Museum of Washington, D.C.]

The retroceded land was then known as Alexandria County, Virginia, and now includes a portion of the independent city of Alexandria and all of Arlington County, the successor to Alexandria County. A large portion of the retroceded land near the river was an estate of George Washington Parke Custis, who had supported the retrocession and helped develop the charter in the Virginia General Assembly for the County of Alexandria, Virginia. The estate (Arlington Plantation) would be passed on to his daughter (the wife of Robert E. Lee), and would eventually become Arlington National Cemetery.

Civil War era

Washington remained a small city of a few thousand residents, virtually deserted during the torrid summertime, until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861. President Abraham Lincoln created the Army of the Potomac to defend the federal capital, and thousands of soldiers came to the area. The significant expansion of the federal government to administer the war—and its legacies, such as veterans' pensions—led to notable growth in the city's population.

Slavery was abolished throughout the District on April 16, 1862 — eight months before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — with the passage of the Compensated Emancipation Act. [cite web|url=http://os.dc.gov/os/cwp/view,a,1207,q,608975.asp|title=History of D.C. Emancipation]

Throughout the war, the city was defended by a ring of military forts that mostly deterred the Confederate army from attacking. One notable exception was the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864 in which Union soldiers repelled troops under the command of Confederate General Jubal A. Early. This battle was the only time that a U.S. president came under enemy fire during wartime when Lincoln visited the fort to observe the fighting. [cite web|url=http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/dc001.htm|title=Fort Stevens Battle Summary]

On April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the war, Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth during the play "Our American Cousin". The next morning, at 7:22 AM, President Lincoln died in the house across the street, the first American president to be murdered. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton said, "Now he belongs to the ages."

Post-Civil War era

Congress passed the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, which revoked the individual charters of the City of Washington, Georgetown, and Washington County and combined them into a single municipality for the entire District of Columbia. The Act also provided for a Board of Public Works to make improvements to the city. President Grant appointed the board's most influential member, Alexander Robey Shepherd to the post of governor in 1873. During that time, Shepherd embarked on a citywide revitalization plan to pave streets and install a sewer systems among other projects. His excesses, however, led Congress to abolish his office in favor of direct rule; Congressional governance of the District would continue for a century.

City Beautiful movement

In the early 1880s, the Washington Canal was filled in. Originally an expansion of Tiber Creek, the Canal connected the Capitol with the Potomac, running along the north side of the Mall where Constitution Avenue is today. However, as the nation transitioned over to railroads for its transport, the Canal had become nothing more than a stagnant sewer, and so it was removed. Some reminders of the Canal still exist. There are two lock buildings along the Mall, near 19th Street and Constitution Avenue. There is also a road named Canal Street that runs south from the Capitol building to the Anacostia River (although the northernmost section of the street was renamed Washington Avenue to commemorate the state of Washington).

The Washington Monument, after four decades of construction, finally opened in 1888 — the tallest building in the world at that time. Plans were laid to further develop the monumental aspects of the city, with work contributed by such noted figures as Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham. However, development of the Lincoln Memorial and other structures on the National Mall did not get underway until the early 20th century.

One of the most important Washington architects of this period was the German immigrant Adolf Cluss. [cite web|url=http://www.adolf-cluss.de/index.php?lang=en&content=h&topSub=washington&sub=3.5|title=Adolf Cluss as the dominant architect for the Red Brick City] From the 1860s to the 1890s, he constructed over 80 public and private buildings throughout the city, including the National Museum, the Agriculture Department, Sumner and Franklin schools.

20th century

In 1901, The Senate Park Improvement Commission of the District of Columbia (the "McMillan Commission"), which Congress had formed the previous year, formulated the McMillan Plan, an architectural plan for the redevelopment of Washington, D.C. [ [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/wash/lenfant.htm The L'Enfant and McMillan Plans] "in" [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/wash/"Washington, D.C., A National Register of Historic Places Travel Inventory"] "in" [http://www.nps.gov offical website of the U.S. National Park Service] Accessed August 14, 2008.] The commission was inspired by L'Enfant's 1791 plan for the city, which had not been fully realized. The members of the commission also sought to emulate the grandeur of European capitals such as Paris, London, and Rome. They were also strongly influenced by the City Beautiful movement, a Progressive ideology that intended to build civic virtue in the poor through important, monumental architecture.

The McMillan Plan in many respects was a form of urban renewal that removed many of the slums that surrounded the Capitol, replacing them with new public monuments and government buildings. The plan created the National Mall and the Burnham-designed Union Station. The execution of the plan was interrupted during World War I but was largely completed with the construction of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.

In 1922, Washington was hit by its deadliest natural disaster when the Knickerbocker Storm dumped convert|18|in|cm of snow causing the roof to collapse at the Knickerbocker Theater, a silent movie house. Ninety-eight people were killed including a U.S. congressman; 133 were injured.

On July 28, 1932, President Herbert Hoover ordered the United States Army to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans that gathered in Washington, D.C., to secure promised veterans' benefits early. U.S. troops dispersed the last of the "Bonus Army" the next day.

A shooting at the U.S. Capitol occurred in 1954 when four Puerto Rican nationalists fired into the floor of the House of Representatives. Five representatives were wounded; one severely.

Civil rights

Parks and recreation facilities in Washington, D.C. remained segregated until 1954, with desegregation of public schools soon thereafter. When the city's Board of Education began building the John Phillip Sousa Junior High, a group of parents from the Anacostia neighborhood petitioned to have the school admit both black and white students, but when it was constructed the Board declared that only whites would be allowed there. The parents sued in a case that was decided in the landmark Supreme Court case "Bolling v. Sharpe". Partly due to the District's unique status under the Constitution, the court decided unanimously that all of D.C.'s public schools had to be integrated. In the wake of this and the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case "Brown v. Board of Education", the Eisenhower administration decided to make D.C. schools the first to integrate as an example to the rest of the nation. In 1957, Washington became the first major city in the United states with a majority African-American population.Fact|date=June 2007

On August 28, 1963, Washington took center stage in the American Civil Rights Movement, with the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famed "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, Washington was devastated by the riots that broke out in the U Street neighborhood and spread to other neighborhoods, including Columbia Heights. The civil unrest drove not only whites, but middle-class blacks out of the city core, and caused many businesses to leave the downtown and inner city areas. Marks of riots scarred some neighborhoods into the late 1990s.

Electoral college votes

The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on March 29, 1961, gave the people of Washington, D.C. the right to choose electors for president and vice president of the United States. The amendment states that the District shall be treated as though it were a state for all purposes relevant to the election of the president and vice president; and, specifically, that it shall have as many electors to which it would be entitled if it were a state, except that it cannot have more electors than the least populous state. However, the least number of electors any state can have is three, so the least number of representatives the District can have is three.

If the District were a state, it would currently be represented in Congress by two senators and one member of Congress, for a total Congressional representation of 3. Thus, the District is entitled to 3 electoral votes, which is the least number of electoral votes any state can have. There have been other times in history, however — and may be again — when the District of Columbia would have been entitled to 4 electors if it were a state; but so long as it is not a state, it can have no more electors than the number allocated to the least populous state. There are currently seven states that are only entitled to 3 electors, so that situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Home rule

In 1973, Congress passed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, ceding some of its power over the city to a new, directly elected city council and mayor. Voters chose Walter Washington to become the first elected mayor of Washington, D.C. and the first black mayor of a major American city.

The first convert|4.6|mi|km of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976, following years of acrimonious battles with Congress over funding and highway construction.

In 1978, Congress sent the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment to the states for ratification. This amendment would have granted the District representation in the House, Senate, and Electoral College as if it were a state. The proposed amendment had a seven-year limit for ratification, and only sixteen states ratified it before the time limit expired.

Marion Barry became the city's second elected mayor after defeating Walter Washington in the 1978 Democratic Party primary. Mayor Barry was popular among low-income residents of the District for his commitment to providing summer youth employment opportunities. Initiated during his administration, the Summer Youth Employment program exists to this day.

During his third term, Barry was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting on January 18, 1990. He was acquitted of felony charges but was convicted on one misdemeanor count of cocaine possession, for which he served a six-month jail term. On January 2, 1991, Sharon Pratt Kelly (elected as Sharon Pratt Dixon but married later that year) was sworn in as mayor, becoming the first black woman to lead a city of that size and importance in the United States.

Marion Barry defeated Kelly in the 1994 primary and was once again elected mayor. He ended his fourth term politically weakened, however, as the city nearly became insolvent and lost much home rule authority to the Congressionally created D.C. Financial Control Board. The greatest shake-up during this period, however, did not affect Barry's power directly but concerned the D.C. Public Schools. In the autumn of 1996, the superintendent of schools and all members of the elected D.C. Board of Education were permanently relieved of responsibility. A retired U.S. Army general was brought in to serve as interim CEO of the public schools. Barry did not run for re-election again.

The next mayor, Anthony Williams, a Yale University-educated lawyer, had been appointed the city's chief financial officer by the control board. He was elected mayor in 1998 and, despite alleged mismanagement and fraud in his campaign which led to the removal of his name from the ballot, Williams won reelection in 2002 as a write-in candidate.

:"See also: List of mayors of Washington, D.C."

21st century

Terrorism and security

The Washington area was a main target of the September 11, 2001 attacks. One hijacked airplane was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington. The crash killed 64 aboard the plane and 125 people on the ground. Hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, supposedly intended to target either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

Since September 11, 2001, a number of high-profile incidents and security scares have occurred in Washington. In October 2001, anthrax attacks, involving anthrax-contaminated mail sent to numerous members of Congress, infected 31 staff members, and killed two U.S. Postal Service employees who handled the contaminated mail at the Brentwood sorting facility. During three weeks of October 2002, fear spread among residents of the Washington area, with the Beltway Sniper attacks. Ten apparently random victims were killed, with three others wounded before John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested on October 24, 2002. In 2003 and 2004, a serial arsonist set over 40 fires, mainly in the District and inner-Maryland suburbs, with one fire killing an elderly woman. Thomas A. Sweatt, a fast-food manager, was arrested in the serial arson case in April 2005 and plead guilty in June of that year. In November 2003, the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of the White House, and in February 2004, in the mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, security has been increased in Washington. Screening devices for biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers are now much more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings, local authorities have decided to test explosives detectors on the vulnerable Washington Metro subway system. False alarms due to suspicious chemical or powder substances or suspected explosives have led to fairly frequent evacuations of buildings, Metro stations, and local post offices.

When U.S. forces in Pakistan raided a house suspected of being a terrorist hideout, they found information several years old about attacks on Washington, D.C., New York City, and Newark, New Jersey. It was directed to intelligence officials, and on August 1, 2004, the Secretary of Homeland Security put the city on Orange (High) Alert. A few days later, security checkpoints appeared in and around the Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods, and fences were erected on monuments once freely accessible, such as the Capitol. Tours of the White House were limited to those arranged by members of Congress. Screening devices for biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers became much more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings and in transportation facilities. This ultra-tight security was referred to as "Fortress Washington"; many people objected to "Walling off Washington" based on information several years old. The vehicle inspections set up around the Capitol were removed in November 2004.


External links

* [http://www.historydc.org/gettoknow/ The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., Get to Know DC]
* [http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/states/dc/home.html Guide to Washington, D.C., Materials from the Library of Congress]
* [http://www.h-net.org/~dclist/ Washington D.C. history discussion list on H-Net]
* [http://www.dcpages.com/History/ Washington DC History Project]
* [http://www.geocities.com/bobarnebeck/introduction.html "The Seat of Empire: a history of Washington, D.C. 1790 to 1861"]

District representation debate

* [http://www.dcvote.org/ D.C. Vote] An organization working for District representation in Congress
* [http://www.freedc.org Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition] - A continuation of the Free DC movement that supports full democracy for the residents of Washington, DC - budget autonomy, legislative autonomy, full voting representation in both houses of Congress, local court and criminal justice system, etc. - through statehood or constitutional amendment.)
* [http://www.washingtonmd.org Committee for the Capital City] An organization supporting retrocession of D.C. to Maryland
* [http://www.dwheeler.com/essays/dc-in-maryland.html "Treat Washington, D.C. as Part of Maryland for Congressional Elections"] argues for this particular approach for D.C. representation in Congress.
* [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=947650 A Separate and Unequal District of Columbia] - Unifies the legal and historical; concludes "our Constitution will no longer tolerate an unrepresented District of Columbia"

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