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Washington's U Street: A Biography

Washington's U Street: A Biography by Blair A. Ruble

Publisher

Woodrow Wilson Center Press with Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010

ISBN

978-0-8018-9800-6
Washington's U Street: A Biography by Blair A. Ruble

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This book traces the history of the U Street neighborhood in Washington, D.C., from its Civil War–era origins to its recent gentrification.

Home throughout the years to important scholars, entertainers, and political figures, as well as to historically prominent African American institutions, Washington’s U Street neighborhood is a critical zone of contact between black and white America. Howard University and the Howard Theater are both located there; Duke Ellington grew up in the neighborhood; and diplomat Ralph Bunche, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and medical researcher Charles Drew were all members of the community.

This robustly diverse neighborhood included residents of different races and economic classes when it arose during the Civil War. Jim Crow laws came to the District after the Compromise of 1877, and segregation followed in the mid-1880s. Over the next century, U Street emerged as an energetic center of African American life in Washington. The mid-twentieth-century rise of cultural and educational institutions brought with it the establishment of African American middle and elite classes, ironically fostering biases within the black community. Later, with residential desegregation, many of the elites moved on and U Street entered decades of decline, suffered rioting in 1968, but has seen an initially fitful resurgence that has recently taken hold.

Blair A. Ruble is the author of several books about the governance of cities worldwide, including Creating Diversity Capital: Transnational Migrants in Montreal, Washington, and Kyiv and Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka, both also published by Johns Hopkins and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Ruble is director of the Kennan Institute and of the Comparative Urban Studies Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Watch dialogue host John Milewski’s interview with book author Blair Ruble.The audio version can be found here.

About the Author

Blair A. Ruble

Blair A. Ruble

Distinguished Fellow,
Former Wilson Center Vice President for Programs (2014-2017); Director of the Comparative Urban Studies Program/Urban Sustainability Laboratory (1992-2017); Director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (1989-2012) and Director of the Program on Global Sustainability and Resilience (2012-2014)
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Urban Sustainability Laboratory

Since 1991, the Urban Sustainability Laboratory has advanced solutions to urban challenges—such as poverty, exclusion, insecurity, and environmental degradation—by promoting evidence-based research to support sustainable, equitable and peaceful cities.  Read more