In 1939, Lincoln Temple Congregational Church was the site of a mass meeting to "Abolish Modern Slavery," hosted by the National Negro Congress (NNC). With a goal of focusing attention on police enforcement of racial terrorism, the meeting's speakers included recent victims of racist violence in Georgia and South Carolina. NNC pressured federal officials to take action and coined the use of the term "civil rights" to define government protection against racial and economic exploitation.
Three decades later, the neighborhood around Lincoln Temple was among the poorest in the city and slated for urban renewal. Largely due to the visionary leadership of Rev. Channing Phillips of Lincoln Temple, the neighborhood became ground zero for the construction of high-quality housing to serve low- and moderate-income residents. In addition to leading Lincoln Temple, Phillips was on the executive board of the Model Inner City Community Organization (MICCO), a grassroots group founded by Rev. Walter Fauntroy and charged with coordinating urban renewal in Shaw. To prevent the displacement of residents, MICCO sought to provide better housing, jobs, and other basic services to the people who already lived in Shaw. As envisioned by its founder, MICCO would provide "renewal with the people, by the people, and for the people." In December 1969, the group celebrated its first such housing in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Lincoln-Westmoreland Apartments which still stands at 1730 Seventh Street NW.
Financed with federal funds made available by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the Lincoln-Westmoreland project employed a black architect and subcontractors as well as a workforce that was more than 70 percent black and comprised mostly neighborhood residents. MICCO and Lincoln Temple's Housing Development Corporation also used federal renewal dollars to rehabilitate old rowhouses, allowing even more longtime residents to remain in the area rather than be pushed out. By the end of 1971, more than 8,000 housing units in Shaw had been built or rehabilitated.