On April 4, 1968, the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination shocked African American communities across the United States.
In Washington, DC, shock and sadness were accompanied by anger, as a large gathering of community members turned violent.
Over the course of four days, protesters burned, looted, and destroyed buildings in the neighborhoods of U Street and Shaw.
The National Guard was summoned by President Johnson to restore order.
By April 8th, Washington attempted to return to the status quo.
The acts of 1968 did not occur in a political vacuum. African Americans had experienced decades of housing segregation, unequal funding of education, and police tensions in the nation's capital.
By April 1968, racial tensions, segregation, and national pressure surrounding the Civil Rights Movement reached a boiling point, but these neighborhoods are not defined by the violence that swept through them.
U Street and Shaw are home to tight-knit communities, whose homes and businesses exist in buildings that bear witness to the city's development throughout 19th and 20th centuries. The neighborhoods experienced aftershocks post-1968, as people and capital departed. Today, renewed interest in urban living has led to rehabilitation of many vacant buildings, but also rising rents that threaten to displace individuals and businesses that remained post-1968. The following sites provide a fuller history of U Street and Shaw, using April 1968 as a pivotal time in their development.
This walking tour covers 1.7 miles and will take approximately 45 minutes to complete.