Civil Rights Tour: Employment - Pride, Inc., Youth Empowerment

1536 U Street NW

Pride was here. Keep it!

As uniformed, teenage workers for Pride, Inc. completed cleanup projects in the fall of 1967 and moved on to the next job, they slapped stickers with these words all over the Cardozo-Shaw neighborhood. Organized by future D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizer Mary Treadwell, city planner Carroll Harvey, and 20-year-old activist Rufus "Catfish" Mayfield, Pride, Inc. provided economic and political empowerment for black youth. For young African Americans suffering barriers to education and employment and frequently subject to police abuse, membership in Pride, Inc. signaled status as citizens worthy of equal rights and fair treatment.

The program's launch in early August 1967 attracted more than 1,000 young men to sign up with the promise of an hourly wage totaling up to $56 per week. Pride workers cleaned the streets, focusing particular attention on eradicating a rampant rat population, and testified before the city council on the violent policing of black neighborhoods. They were also required to open bank accounts at the black-owned Industrial Bank of Washington on U Street. "That was a powerful statement to have all of those young black and Hispanic men lined up like that to put money in the bank," wrote Barry.

Originally headquartered in a former convent at North Capitol and K streets NE, and then in the basement of Franklin P. Nash United Methodist Church at Lincoln Road and Rhode Island Avenue NE, Pride, Inc. moved to 16th and U streets around November 1967 after securing a second grant from the US Department of Labor. With $2 million in hand, the organization expanded to offer training in areas such as landscaping, appliance repair, manufacturing, construction and carpentry, and building maintenance. Participants either attended school full-time and worked with Pride, Inc. on the weekends, or attended school at night while working full-time.

In the early 1970s, Pride won a contract to manage the Clifton Terrace Apartments in Columbia Heights after the owner, who had been sued for 1,200 building code violations at the complex, sold the building to the nonprofit Housing Development Corporation. Pride, Inc. also ran a gas station in Columbia Heights and partnered with American University, paying room and board for students who could otherwise not afford to pursue undergraduate degrees.

Pride became a model for Mayor Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program, which provided many DC residents with their first jobs and became iconic for its association with Barry’s wider mission of employing black Washingtonians in government and growing the black middle-class. Pride, Inc. headquarters remained at 1536 U Street NW until it closed its doors in 1981. The building still stands in the Sixteenth Street Historic District.

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