Washington’s Black Borderlands: Spaces of Inclusion

Authors: David Rotenstein*,
Topics: United States, Urban Geography
Keywords: race, history
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Some of Washington’s earliest suburban communities were unplanned rural African American hamlets. Connected by kinship, church, benevolent organizations, and baseball, these communities comprised a Black map of the Washington region within which a Black spatial imaginary thrived. Defined by inclusion and mutual cooperation, these places were resilient communities on the margins of white society dominated by Jim Crow exclusion and racially restricted residential subdivisions.

Washington’s Black Borderlands straddled the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Maryland line. Nearly a dozen African American communities in this space formed a single networked community split by a porous border. As white suburbanization intensified starting in the early twentieth century, many of these communities disintegrated and their residents were displaced. Some of Washington’s earliest mass displacement episodes occurred in these spaces as they turned from Black to white. This paper explores how Washington’s Black borderlands emerged and changed over nearly two centuries.

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