Civil Rights Tour: Recreation - Rose Park Playground

2609 Dumbarton Street NW

Rose Park Playground was one of the first playgrounds in the District to be racially integrated. It was part of an official experiment in interracial recreation organized in 1949 by the American Friends Service Committee.

Originally established in 1918 by the Ancient Order of the Sons and Daughters of Moses to serve African American children, Rose Park was known variously as Patterson’s Park, Jacob’s Park, or Winship’s Lot. The city acquired it in 1922 and designated it a “colored” facility, in keeping with its policy of segregated recreational facilities. However, Georgetown was a racially diverse neighborhood, and Rose Park was its main recreational facility, so people ignored the segregation rules. Children and adults, both Black and white, played basketball, volleyball, tennis, and dodgeball there. They held folk dances and learned crafts such as sewing and basketry as well as fine arts and music.

In the late 1930s the DC Department of Recreation remodeled the playground, strategically placing a sign “For Coloreds Only” on the gate. After the Rock Creek Civic Association protested, the sign was removed, but the official designation held. In the summer of 1949, when the American Friends Service Committee successfully operated Rose Park (as well as Garfield Park in Southeast) as an interracial facility, the District Recreation Board made the designation permanent, making Rose Park and Garfield Park the city’s first officially integrated playgrounds.

Rose Park was notably the home court for Margaret and Roumania Peters, two tennis stars of the late 1930s who lived at 2710 O Street, NW. Recruited to play for Tuskegee Institute, the sisters consistently won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Roumania Peters Walker later returned to teach tennis at Dunbar High School and Rose Park summer camps.