Friday, April 4, 2008

Forty Years Later

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as the anniversary of the riots that shook, smoked, and sacked countless neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

Here is a map of riot events in D.C., from Ten Blocks From the White House, courtesy of Rob Goodspeed
Click to Enlarge

Notice that Anacostia is labelled "SE Shopping Area". Wow.

Here is one local account of that fateful day:

"I was a Senior at Anacostia High School at 16th & R Streets, S.E. I remember Principal Lamb opening up the speaker system and telling everyone in the school that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. My entire classroom got up from our seats, the girls got their purses, and we walked straight out of the front door without saying a word, along with probably 3/4 of the school. I am white, but that day it didn’t matter. We were classmates and we were in this together. We marched, linked arm in arm about 15 across, down to the Capital. That is one time in my life that will be burned in my memory forever. They were already rioting on Good Hope Road and police and fire trucks were all over the place. We just kept on going and nobody bothered us. We were quiet and determined. We cried as we walked, but everyone stayed calm."

-Helen Bolger Garrett
(courtesy of NBC4)

For some reason I was under the impression that although the neighborhood was affected and changed by them, that there weren't riots in Anacostia. The above map and personal account tell a different story, and explains a lot about the current physical condition and visage of disinvestment on our streets.

Would D.C. neighborhoods be as strong as they are today if it weren't for the absolute upheaval that took place after MLK's death? They say that broken bones grow back stronger, and I am looking forward to the day that Anacostia is stronger than it has ever been. The bones are here, ready and waiting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think the physical state of those neighborhoods would be even better if the riots hadn't taken place simply because the status quo would've been higher. Right now, the status quo is Historic Anacostia, Downtown Ward 7 and until recently H Street, NE, which is mostly blight, underutilized retail and poorly maintain buildings.