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 experiment, 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 attempts by white residents to enforce them, African Americans had begun renting and buying houses there. By the late 1940s, Park View's residents were majority African American, yet both its elementary school and its playground, across the street from the school, remained open to white children only.

In response to community demand, the DC Department of Recreation reluctantly implemented a split-use plan for integration of Park View Playground for 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 Elementary 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 1952 officially desegregated this playground along with several others. Two years later, in May 1954, segregation at all DC playgrounds ended.  

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

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