Civil Rights Tour: Protest - Willie Hardy, "Uninvited Woman Guest"

5046 Benning Road SE

"If I'm criticized, then I've been heard." (Willie J. Hardy)

Activist and Ward 7 DC councilmember Willie J. Hardy (1922-2007), quoted above, lived most of her life around Marshall Heights, where, in the 1930s, her mother helped cut roads and haul water to the then-isolated, semi-rural Black community. Hardy later raised eight children and three nieces at 5046 Benning Road NE in a more modern Marshall Heights, calling them her "built-in picket line." Her husband Lloyd Hardy, a cabbie, drove the whole family to protest outside the whites-only Glen Echo amusement park in the summer of 1960.

Before her election to the DC Council in 1974, Hardy ran the Metropolitan Community Aid Council out of a Quonset building in Deanwood which Lloyd Hardy helped build, known as the Hut. The group provided housing, food, clothing, and legal assistance for people evicted from their homes or awaiting public assistance. "We don't receive any money from any Federal agency," she told a reporter, "and yet the Welfare Department has to refer starving people to us so they won't die while they complete their paper work." Lloyd used his cab to shuttle evicted families to the Hut and to pick up food and clothing for them.

In January 1966, Hardy coordinated the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) successful one-day bus boycott, led by Marion Barry. Two years later, she became the only woman on a steering committee for the Black United Front, a coalition of civil rights and Black Power groups across the city that demanded a voice in the city's governance and community control of the police. In January 1968 when the Department of Justice hosted a meeting on "preventing and controlling racial disorders," in Warrenton, Virginia for white police chiefs from across the country, Hardy attempted to crash it. Hardy, who objected to "white Americans getting together, with taxpayer money to discuss us," was physically prevented from entering the meeting. In 1969, she joined Marion Barry in opposing Mayor Walter Washington's plan to add 1,000 officers to DC's police force, urging that funds instead be directed to programs for rehabilitation and preventing crime. Shortly after winning her seat on the DC Council—she served two terms (one two-year, and one four-year) from 1975-1981—Hardy commented that "the ones who make laws are the ones who bring about change. That's where the power is."