Civil Rights Tour: Recreation
Park View Playground

693 Otis Place NW

In the late 1940s, Park View Playground—an all-white facility in an increasingly black neighborhood—was one of a few playgrounds selected by the Board of Recreation for racial integration. This experimentation, pushed for by residents of the community, was the first step in the slow process towards full integration of the city’s playgrounds several years later.

Park View, located north of McMillan Reservoir and Howard University, started out as an all-white neighborhood in 1908. During the 1930s, despite the inclusion of racially restrictive covenants in deeds and other attempts by white residents to enforce them, African Americans had begun renting and buying houses there. By the late 1940s, Park View had become majority African American, yet both its elementary school and its playground, across the street from Park View Elementary School, remained open to white children only.

In response to community demand, the D.C. Department of Recreation reluctantly implemented a split-use plan for integration of Park View Playground in the 1948-49 academic year. The playground would be whites-only during school hours, but open to black children after 3:00 when school let out. As more African Americans moved to the neighborhood Park View became an African American school in 1949.  However, white children continued to use the playground.

Eventually, the Board of Recreation recognized the “growing community sentiment that Park View should serve the recreation needs of all people,” and in May 1949, officially desegregated this playground and several others.  Three years later in June 1952, the Board adopted the same policy for all of its playgrounds.

Park View Playground was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.