U Street Corridor, Washington, D.C.
The next stop on our trip around the globe isn’t too far—it’s Washington, D.C., home of Drumfolk’s Step Afrika!
First, watch this Explore Video to get to know the Step Afrika!, then learn more about their two historic homes—the U Street Corridor and Howard University—and our nation’s capital.
The U Street Corridor
Once referred to as “Black Broadway,” the U Street Corridor was a commercial and cultural hub for African Americans from the 1920s to the early 1960s and a prominent symbol of black culture during a time of racial and political tension in America. The neighborhood began to decline following the 1968 Washington, D.C., riots caused by the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1986, the city launched a redevelopment plan and today, U Street is a vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhood bustling with eclectic art, theater, music, restaurants and boutiques.
Founded in 1867, Howard University is one of 107 historically black universities (HBCU) established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve the African American community. To date, Howard has awarded over 120,000 degrees in the arts, sciences and humanities. The historic main campus is just blocks from the storied U Street Corridor. Notable alumni include:
- Ralph Bunche, The first person of color to receive the Nobel Peace Prize
- David Dinkins, the only African American to serve as Mayor of New York City (1990-1993)
- Kamala Harris, the second African American woman to be elected to the Senate and a 2020 presidential candidate
- Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice
- Toni Morrison, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
- Pauli Murray, A civil and women’s rights activist and the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.
- C. Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Director of Step Afrika!
Did You Know?
On July 16, 1790, Congress declared the city of Washington in the District of Columbia the ninth and permanent capital of the United States. The previous eight capitals include New York City and Philadelphia. Since the District of Columbia is not a state, residents were unable to vote in presidential elections until 1961 when the 23rd amendment was ratified.
BONUS FACT: June 17, 2018 was proclaimed Step Afrika! Day by Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser.
What to See
How to Chow
Bite into D.C. with these local specialties:
- Half Smoke
- Half Smoke & Pizza
- Known also as the “U Street Taco,” it is a half smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl wrapped in a slice of pizza from Jumbo Slice.
- This is a local specialty, created and available only on U Street.
- Considered a new signature dish, it’s a boat-like bread filled with cheese and an egg in the center.
- This is a dish from the country of Georgia, and particularly popular along 14th Street NW
- Ethiopian food
- Mumbo Sauce or Mambo Sauce
- This sauce is similar to barbecue, but sweeter and more tangy.
- This condiment was created in D.C., and is commonly used in takeout restaurants.
- It can be used on anything, but it’s most popular on fried chicken wings, french fries, fried jumbo shrimp and fried rice.
What to Jam to
Take a listen to the D.C. hits of yesteryear by artists who walked the same streets as Step Afrika!
- “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
- Marvin Gaye was born in Washington D.C. and was one of the most influential artists of the 1960s and 1970s.
- He performed at least twice at The Howard Theatre—with the Moonglows in 1960 and as the opening act during the Motortown Revue in 1962.
- Celebrate Marvin Gaye Day on May 5.
- “It Don’t Mean a Thing” by Duke Ellington
- Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C. and was one of the most iconic artists in American history.
- He performed regularly at The Howard Theatre—notably in 1931 for the venue’s grand re-opening.
- You could often find him at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
- “A Time for Love” by Shirley Horn
- This jazz singer and pianist was born in Washington D.C.
- On February 15, 2006, a Congressional Tribute to Shirley Horne passed unanimously to honor “her many achievements and contributions to the world of jazz and American culture.”
- “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
- Although he was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Louis Armstrong often performed at the Lincoln Colonnade and The Howard Theatre.
- He notably performed on January 30, 1942 at the President’s Birthday Ball in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 60th birthday.
- “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holiday
- New York’s own Billie Holiday was a staple of D.C. entertainment, performing regularly at The Howard Theatre, Lincoln Colonnade, Olivia Davis’ Patio Lounge and Brown Derby.
- When she was first starting out, she performed in 1937 at The Howard Theatre with the Count Basie Orchestra. Just a few years later, she returned for week-long engagements as headliner in 1940 and 1941.
- “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald
- She was discovered at The Howard Theatre before she went on to perform at the Apollo.
- You could also find her at Ben’s Chili Bowl, too!
D.C. in NYC
If you can’t get down to D.C. easily, check out these New York City landmarks that echo the history of our capital and the early days of the United States!
Now that you know more about Washington, D.C., join us for Step Afrika’s Drumfolk this season! In the meantime, stay tuned for next week’s New Victory Travel Guide.