Friday, August 16, 2013
dcpast:


1918-1920. “Old Capitol ruins.” National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress.
The Old Brick Capitol served as the temporary Capitol of the United States between 1815 and 1819, after the Capitol Building was burned by the British during the War of 1812, and then became the Old Capitol Prison during the Civil War. It was razed in 1929 and the site is now occupied by the United States Supreme Court building.

dcpast:

1918-1920. “Old Capitol ruins.” National Photo Company Collection, Library of Congress.

The Old Brick Capitol served as the temporary Capitol of the United States between 1815 and 1819, after the Capitol Building was burned by the British during the War of 1812, and then became the Old Capitol Prison during the Civil War. It was razed in 1929 and the site is now occupied by the United States Supreme Court building.

Saturday, August 3, 2013
Patrick Francis Healy was born February 27th, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. He is best known for his role as the 29th President of Georgetown University and expanding the school after the Civil War. He was accepted and identified as Irish-American, but in the 1960s, his mixed race ancestry became widely known, and he was recognized as the first Black American to earn a PhD, the first to become a Jesuit priest, and the first to become president of a predominantly white college/university.
Healy was born into slavery in Macon, Georgia to an Irish-American plantation owner Michael Healy and a biracial enslaved woman named Mary Eliza. Because of the law that stated that the children take on the status of their mother (partus sequitur ventrum), Healy and his siblings took on their mother’s status as slaves, even though they were three-quarters European.
Patrick was the third child of Michael and Mary Eliza, who had joined in a common-law marriage in 1829. After Michael purchased Mary Eliza, he fell in love with her and made her his common-law wife, despite the fact that the law prohibited their union. Because of laws prohibiting the education of slaves and required legislative approval for their manumission, Michael arranged for his children to leave Georgia to go up North to obtain their educations and have opportunities. The Healy family was raised Irish Catholic and all of the Healy children were educated in Catholic institutions, and they also achieved notable firsts for Americans of mixed race ancestry during the second half of the 19th century, making the Healy family a very notable one.
Healy and his older brothers attended College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1844. After his graduation in 1850, he entered the Jesuit order and completed his studies. The order sent him to Europe to study in 1858 because his mixed race was becoming an issue in the US, due to slavery. He attended the University of Leuven in Belgium, where he earned his doctorate and became the first American of open African descent to do so. During this time, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 3rd, 1864.
In 1866, Healy returned to the US and taught philosophy at Georgetown University. Eight years later, he was selected to be the university’s 29th president.
Healy’s influence at GU was so profound that he is often referred to as the “second founder,” following Archbishop John Carroll. He helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century— likely because of his European education.
He modernized the curriculum by requiring courses in the sciences, particularly chemistry and physics.
He expanded and upgraded the schools of law and science.
He became one of the most renowned Jesuit priests of his time.
The most visible result of his presidency was the construction of the university’s flagship building designed by Paul J. Pelz, begin in 1877 and first used in 1881. The building was later named Healy Hall in his honor.
Healy left GU in 1882 and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the US. In 1908, he returned to the university infirmary, where he died. He was buried on the university’s campus in the Jesuit cemetery.

Patrick Francis Healy was born February 27th, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. He is best known for his role as the 29th President of Georgetown University and expanding the school after the Civil War. He was accepted and identified as Irish-American, but in the 1960s, his mixed race ancestry became widely known, and he was recognized as the first Black American to earn a PhD, the first to become a Jesuit priest, and the first to become president of a predominantly white college/university.

Healy was born into slavery in Macon, Georgia to an Irish-American plantation owner Michael Healy and a biracial enslaved woman named Mary Eliza. Because of the law that stated that the children take on the status of their mother (partus sequitur ventrum), Healy and his siblings took on their mother’s status as slaves, even though they were three-quarters European.

Patrick was the third child of Michael and Mary Eliza, who had joined in a common-law marriage in 1829. After Michael purchased Mary Eliza, he fell in love with her and made her his common-law wife, despite the fact that the law prohibited their union. Because of laws prohibiting the education of slaves and required legislative approval for their manumission, Michael arranged for his children to leave Georgia to go up North to obtain their educations and have opportunities. The Healy family was raised Irish Catholic and all of the Healy children were educated in Catholic institutions, and they also achieved notable firsts for Americans of mixed race ancestry during the second half of the 19th century, making the Healy family a very notable one.

Healy and his older brothers attended College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1844. After his graduation in 1850, he entered the Jesuit order and completed his studies. The order sent him to Europe to study in 1858 because his mixed race was becoming an issue in the US, due to slavery. He attended the University of Leuven in Belgium, where he earned his doctorate and became the first American of open African descent to do so. During this time, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 3rd, 1864.

In 1866, Healy returned to the US and taught philosophy at Georgetown University. Eight years later, he was selected to be the university’s 29th president.

Healy’s influence at GU was so profound that he is often referred to as the “second founder,” following Archbishop John Carroll. He helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century— likely because of his European education.

  • He modernized the curriculum by requiring courses in the sciences, particularly chemistry and physics.
  • He expanded and upgraded the schools of law and science.
  • He became one of the most renowned Jesuit priests of his time.
  • The most visible result of his presidency was the construction of the university’s flagship building designed by Paul J. Pelz, begin in 1877 and first used in 1881. The building was later named Healy Hall in his honor.

Healy left GU in 1882 and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the US. In 1908, he returned to the university infirmary, where he died. He was buried on the university’s campus in the Jesuit cemetery.

Statue of Mary and Emily Edmonson (leaders of the Peal Escape) at Edmonson Plaza in Alexandria, Virginia
Information about the statue

Statue of Mary and Emily Edmonson (leaders of the Peal Escape) at Edmonson Plaza in Alexandria, Virginia

Information about the statue

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1901 in Joplin, Missouri. Both of his great-grandmothers were Black and both of his great-grandfathers were White slave owners of Kentucky. Of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County and supposedly a relative of Henry Clay, and the other was a Jewish-American slave trader of Clark County. Hughes’ maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of Black, French, English, and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. Lewis Sheridan Leary subsequently joined John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds.
In 1869, the widow Mary Patterson married again, into the elite and politically-active Langston family. Her second husband was Charles Henry Langston, of Black, Native American, and Euro-American ancestry. He and his brother John Mercer Langston worked for the abolitionist cause and helped lead the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in 1858. Charles Langston later moved to Kansas, where he was active as an educator activist for voting rights and rights for Blacks. Charles and Mary’s daughter Caroline was the mother of Langston Hughes.
After the separation of his parents, he was raised by his maternal grandmother while his mother traveled seeking employment.Through the Black oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled racial pride into Hughes. He spent a majority of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas, and after the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends James and Mary Reed for two years. In Big Sea he wrote:

I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books—- where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas.

In 1924, after his time in England, Hughes returned to the US and moved to DC to live with his mother. He worked various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar job assisting the famous historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Because the work demanded so much time that took away from his writing, he quit his job as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel.
The next year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. After he received his BA in 1929, he returned to New York City. He lived in Harlem for the majority of the remainder of his life.
On May 22nd, 1967, Hughes died from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer, at the age of 65. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. 

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1901 in Joplin, Missouri. Both of his great-grandmothers were Black and both of his great-grandfathers were White slave owners of Kentucky. Of these men was Sam Clay, a Scottish-American whiskey distiller of Henry County and supposedly a relative of Henry Clay, and the other was a Jewish-American slave trader of Clark County. Hughes’ maternal grandmother Mary Patterson was of Black, French, English, and Native American descent. One of the first women to attend Oberlin College, she first married Lewis Sheridan Leary, also of mixed race. Lewis Sheridan Leary subsequently joined John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and died from his wounds.

In 1869, the widow Mary Patterson married again, into the elite and politically-active Langston family. Her second husband was Charles Henry Langston, of Black, Native American, and Euro-American ancestry. He and his brother John Mercer Langston worked for the abolitionist cause and helped lead the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in 1858. Charles Langston later moved to Kansas, where he was active as an educator activist for voting rights and rights for Blacks. Charles and Mary’s daughter Caroline was the mother of Langston Hughes.

After the separation of his parents, he was raised by his maternal grandmother while his mother traveled seeking employment.Through the Black oral tradition and drawing from the activist experiences of her generation, Mary Langston instilled racial pride into Hughes. He spent a majority of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas, and after the death of his grandmother, he went to live with family friends James and Mary Reed for two years. In Big Sea he wrote:

I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books—- where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas.

In 1924, after his time in England, Hughes returned to the US and moved to DC to live with his mother. He worked various odd jobs before gaining a white-collar job assisting the famous historian Carter G. Woodson at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Because the work demanded so much time that took away from his writing, he quit his job as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel.

The next year, Hughes enrolled in Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where he joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. After he received his BA in 1929, he returned to New York City. He lived in Harlem for the majority of the remainder of his life.

On May 22nd, 1967, Hughes died from complications after abdominal surgery, related to prostate cancer, at the age of 65. His ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. 

Friday, August 2, 2013
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born April 29th, 1899 in Washington, DC to James Edward Kennedy and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, who were both pianists. He was a composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader and his career spanned more than fifty years; he led his orchestra from 1923 until his death.
Although he was born in DC, he was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onwards, and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club. In the 1930s, they toured Europe.
Ellington’s father James was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina on April 15th, 1879 and moved to DC in 1886 with his parents. His mother was born in DC on January 4th, 1879, and was the daughter of  former slave. Daisy and James were both pianists: Daisy primarily played parlor songs and James preferred operatic songs. The family lived with Ellington’s maternal grandparents at 2129 Ida Place NW (now Ward Place) in the West End neighborhood.
At the age of seven, Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales. Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. His childhood friends noted that “his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a younger nobleman,” and they began calling him Duke. Ellington credited his friend Edgar McEntree for the nickname:

I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke.

Ellington attended Armstrong Technical High School, and his first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.
Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in DC, but also in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer. Dunbar High School teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony, and with the additional guidance of another DC pianist Oliver “Doc” Perry, he learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington started to play gigs in cafes and clubs in and around DC and his attachment became so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1916. Three months before graduating, Ellington dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art.
Ellington played throughout the DC area and Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. His band, The Duke’s Serenaders, included his childhood friend Otto Hardwick, who started on string bass, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto saxophone; Arthur Whesol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums.
Ellington married his high school sweetheart Edna Thompson (d. 1967) on July 2nd, 1918 when he was nineteen. Shortly after their marriage, Edna gave birth to their son Mercer Kennedy Ellington on March 11th, 1919. His wife and son joined him in NYC in the late 1920s, but the couple soon permanently separated. According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “[h]omesick for Washington” and returned to DC.
Ellington died from lung cancer and pneumonia on May 29th, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. His last words were:

Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born April 29th, 1899 in Washington, DC to James Edward Kennedy and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, who were both pianists. He was a composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader and his career spanned more than fifty years; he led his orchestra from 1923 until his death.

Although he was born in DC, he was based in New York City from the mid-1920s onwards, and gained a national profile through his orchestra’s appearances at the Cotton Club. In the 1930s, they toured Europe.

Ellington’s father James was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina on April 15th, 1879 and moved to DC in 1886 with his parents. His mother was born in DC on January 4th, 1879, and was the daughter of  former slave. Daisy and James were both pianists: Daisy primarily played parlor songs and James preferred operatic songs. The family lived with Ellington’s maternal grandparents at 2129 Ida Place NW (now Ward Place) in the West End neighborhood.

At the age of seven, Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales. Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. His childhood friends noted that “his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a younger nobleman,” and they began calling him Duke. Ellington credited his friend Edgar McEntree for the nickname:

I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke.

Ellington attended Armstrong Technical High School, and his first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.

Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in DC, but also in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer. Dunbar High School teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony, and with the additional guidance of another DC pianist Oliver “Doc” Perry, he learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington started to play gigs in cafes and clubs in and around DC and his attachment became so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1916. Three months before graduating, Ellington dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art.

Ellington played throughout the DC area and Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. His band, The Duke’s Serenaders, included his childhood friend Otto Hardwick, who started on string bass, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto saxophone; Arthur Whesol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums.

Ellington married his high school sweetheart Edna Thompson (d. 1967) on July 2nd, 1918 when he was nineteen. Shortly after their marriage, Edna gave birth to their son Mercer Kennedy Ellington on March 11th, 1919. His wife and son joined him in NYC in the late 1920s, but the couple soon permanently separated. According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “[h]omesick for Washington” and returned to DC.

Ellington died from lung cancer and pneumonia on May 29th, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. His last words were:

Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered.

Benjamin Banneker was born November 9th, 1731 in Baltimore County, Maryland and was a free scientist, surveyor, almanac author, and farmer. He was born to a free Black woman named Mary and a formerly enslaved man from Guinea named Robert. He also very little formal education and was primarily self-taught. He is well-known for being a part of a group led by Major Andrew Ellicott that surveyed the borders of the original borders of the District of Columbia.
His vast knowledge of astronomy helped him author a commercially successful series of almanacs. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the US Declaration of Independence, on topics such as slavery and racial equality. Abolitionists and advocates of racial equality both promoted and praised his works.
While Banneker solely identified himself as Black, there are different accounts of his family history. None of Banneker’s remaining documents describe a white ancestor or identify the name of his grandmother. However, some biographers insist that his mother was a child of Molly Welsh, a white indentured servant, and an African slave named Banneka. The first published description of Molly Welsh was based on interviews with her descendants that took place after 1836, long after the deaths of both Molly and Benjamin. Molly may have purchased Banneka to help establish a farm located near what would eventually become Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, which is west of Baltimore. One biographer believes that Banneka was a member of the Dogon tribe that were reported to have vast knowledge of astronomy. Molly supposedly freed and married Banneka, who might have shared his knowledge of astronomy with her. Although he was born after Banneka’s death, Benjamin might have acquired some of his knowledge from Molly.
In February 1791, Major Andrew Ellicott hired Benjamin to assist in the initial survey of the boundaries of the new federal district, which the 1790 federal Residence Act legislation authorized. Formed from the land along the Potomac River from both Maryland and Virginia, the territory that became the original District of Columbia was a square measuring 10 miles on each side, totaling 100 square miles. Ellicott’s team placed boundary stones at every mile point of the city.
Benjamin’s duties consisted primarily of making astronomical observations at Jones Points in Alexandria, Virginia, to ascertain the location of the starting point for the survey. He also maintained a clock that he used to relate points on the ground to the positions of starts at specific times. However, at age 59, he left the boundary survey in April 1791 due to illness and difficulties completing the survey. He returned to his home at Ellicott’s Mills to work on an ephemeris. Andrew Ellicott continued the survey with his brothers Benjamin and Joseph Ellicott and other associates through 1791 and 1792.
Benjamin never married and because of his declining sales, his last almanac was published in 1797. After selling most of his farm to the Ellicotts and others, he died in his log cabin nine years later on October 9th, 1806, exactly one month before his 75th birthday. A commemorative obelisk the Maryland Bicentennial Commission and the State Commission on Afro American History and Culture erected in 1977 near his unmarked grave in the yards of the Mt. Gilboa AME Church in Oella, Maryland.

Benjamin Banneker was born November 9th, 1731 in Baltimore County, Maryland and was a free scientist, surveyor, almanac author, and farmer. He was born to a free Black woman named Mary and a formerly enslaved man from Guinea named Robert. He also very little formal education and was primarily self-taught. He is well-known for being a part of a group led by Major Andrew Ellicott that surveyed the borders of the original borders of the District of Columbia.

His vast knowledge of astronomy helped him author a commercially successful series of almanacs. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the US Declaration of Independence, on topics such as slavery and racial equality. Abolitionists and advocates of racial equality both promoted and praised his works.

While Banneker solely identified himself as Black, there are different accounts of his family history. None of Banneker’s remaining documents describe a white ancestor or identify the name of his grandmother. However, some biographers insist that his mother was a child of Molly Welsh, a white indentured servant, and an African slave named Banneka. The first published description of Molly Welsh was based on interviews with her descendants that took place after 1836, long after the deaths of both Molly and Benjamin. Molly may have purchased Banneka to help establish a farm located near what would eventually become Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, which is west of Baltimore. One biographer believes that Banneka was a member of the Dogon tribe that were reported to have vast knowledge of astronomy. Molly supposedly freed and married Banneka, who might have shared his knowledge of astronomy with her. Although he was born after Banneka’s death, Benjamin might have acquired some of his knowledge from Molly.

In February 1791, Major Andrew Ellicott hired Benjamin to assist in the initial survey of the boundaries of the new federal district, which the 1790 federal Residence Act legislation authorized. Formed from the land along the Potomac River from both Maryland and Virginia, the territory that became the original District of Columbia was a square measuring 10 miles on each side, totaling 100 square miles. Ellicott’s team placed boundary stones at every mile point of the city.

Benjamin’s duties consisted primarily of making astronomical observations at Jones Points in Alexandria, Virginia, to ascertain the location of the starting point for the survey. He also maintained a clock that he used to relate points on the ground to the positions of starts at specific times. However, at age 59, he left the boundary survey in April 1791 due to illness and difficulties completing the survey. He returned to his home at Ellicott’s Mills to work on an ephemeris. Andrew Ellicott continued the survey with his brothers Benjamin and Joseph Ellicott and other associates through 1791 and 1792.

Benjamin never married and because of his declining sales, his last almanac was published in 1797. After selling most of his farm to the Ellicotts and others, he died in his log cabin nine years later on October 9th, 1806, exactly one month before his 75th birthday. A commemorative obelisk the Maryland Bicentennial Commission and the State Commission on Afro American History and Culture erected in 1977 near his unmarked grave in the yards of the Mt. Gilboa AME Church in Oella, Maryland.

Negro society in Washington, they assured me was the finest in the country, the richest, the most cultured, the most worthy…She is a graduated of this…or he is a graduate of that…frequently followed introductions. So I met many men and women who had been to college and seemed not to have recovered from it. Langston Hughes, “Our Wonderful Society” (1927)
By 1865, forty thousand “human contraband,” or former slaves, had flocked to the District. The end of the Civil War coincided with a wave of urbanization. In 1867, Congress approved the only federally chartered university for the education of freed slaves in Washington, DC, Howard University. The university’s graduates took advantage of the federal government’s hiring policies that gave opportunities that educated Black people lacked in the private sector. Many educated Blacks that came for federal civil service and military jobs stayed. Compared to the rest of the country, Black Washingtonians were educated and prosperous. The city was regularly as a “colored man’s paradise.”
Washington, DC, boasted the largest urban Black population in the United States until Harlem overtook it in 1920. The capital city was the incubator for what would later become known as the Harlem Renaissance: key figures such as Alain Locke and Sterling Brown taught at Howard University, and Zora Neale Hurston graduated from there. Langston Hughes wrote evocatively of the time he spent in Washington after college, but he found Washingtonians “arrogant.”
Excerpt from Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City by Natalie Hopkinson, Chapter Two: Club U, page 17
In 1862, Congress passed a law that required public schools in the District to admit Blacks. It also emancipated the thirty-one hundred slaves owned by District citizens, paying the slaveholders $300 per slave. Legislator passed this law nine months before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally freed slaves in the rest of the Union but provided no such windfall in the District.  Excerpt from Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate Cityby Natalie Hopkinson, Chapter Two: Club U, page 17
In 1791, Maryland and Virginia, both slave states, donated swampland to create the diamond-shaped District of Columbia, which would serve as the capital of the United States of America. Because it was established that of any other place in the country. The District of Columbia is not a state, has limited representation in the US House of Representatives, and none of the Senate. A congressional committee of members elected from throughout the United States rules Washington.
This unique structure means that the city reflects the mood of the whole country. It has also generally served to amplify the Black voice and voices favorable to Black people.
Excerpt from Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City by Natalie Hopkinson, Chapter Two: Club U, page 16