2:00 P.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Professor Maurice Jackson from Georgetown University who will deliver a media roundtable on D.C. 101, The Unique Political System, Economy, Culture, and History of Our Nation’s Capital. Professor Jackson will be speaking on his own behalf and not for the U.S. Department of State.
And without further ado, here is the professor.
MR. JACKSON: Well, thank you. And you said about 6 - 7 minutes?
MODERATOR: Yeah, yeah.
MR. JACKSON: Well, thank you all for having me, and I know that the President of the United States is in Europe and you all would rather be following him, but we’ll cover this.
And it’s very interesting. I have to tell you just a little story aside. Right where the National Press Club is right now was, in the 1800s, a slave mart right down the street. There are many places like that – right where the Department of Education is, right where the Federal Aeronautical Administration is, in Georgetown and other places like that. So I’ll sort of wrap around that. We’ll talk about the history now.
Two things were said about Washington, D.C. by two great writers. One, I think, was Mark Twain. I haven’t been able to follow it. He said America – Washington, D.C. is the city where the American dream and the American nightmare pass each other daily and never speak. So you think about that a little bit. The other was by a man who was perhaps one of the greatest modern-day proponents of democracy in Washington, D.C., Edward Kennedy, who died some years ago. And he said people in Washington will never get voting rights because of the four toos – too Democratic, too urban, too liberal, and of course, too black. And we’ll start to explore those things as we go.
Now, does anybody have an idea how this became the capital? Probably not. Well, as you know, Philadelphia was the capital, and there were a lot of debates at the time of the Revolution. The Civil War veterans had been mustered out of the army, and one is mustered out of the army, they go and get a pension, the Revolutionary War pension. The same thing now – you go into the army, suit – you come out, one coat, one suitcase, and a promise of a GI bill or something like that. Well, anyway, they were promised a pension. They went to Philadelphia and they did not get the pension. They went back and didn’t get the pension. So last – next time, they went with their muskets and with guns and they didn’t get their pension, but the constitutionalists ran up to New York and they stayed in New York and the rebels followed them – not rebels, they had been Revolutionary War heroes. They followed them to New York and still didn’t get their pension.
So the – it was decided that the capital would be in a place away from what they called the riffraff or from the mobs – they would use the terms that way. An agreement was made between Jefferson and Madison and others that the capital would be in a place located not near an urban center. The deal was that the South would pay off the North’s Revolutionary War debts if it were placed in a place in the South, so it ended up in Washington, D.C. for no other reason, no population there. But the other thing was that it was agreed that it would have to be, in many ways, a southern city applying to the southern norms, which mean slavery would be a part of the system. The agreement was made in 1783.
In 1787, Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution was written declaring this the seat of government. And it said something unique in it. It said the seat of government will be an area not exceeding 10 miles square, 10 miles square. Ten miles square is different from 10 square miles; 10 miles square probably 100 miles around, roughly the size of Grenada, a small city. Grenada has 100,000, Washington close to 700,000.
At any rate, now, so when the capital was established, the capital area was to be what? The self-governing district, so to speak. Really, it was to be the federal enclave. That was to be – that was the part – not where people live, but where, actually, the governing took place. Many things happened over the period. To make the capital, Maryland seated (ph) 67 miles, 67 square miles, which meant if you go up by U Street areas that way, that was Maryland; Virginia the rest, the rest – what is it – 33. And that was over this area, Alexandria and places like that, to this way. That guaranteed that southern slaveholders would have their sale. So Washington at the time was made up of three important incorporated cities: Georgetown City, Center City, which would be in this area, Alexandria and other places like that.
The federal government moved to Washington in 1800 and Congress assumes authority. The one requirement was that the parts of Washington would be governed by the area of the land seated to them, so – which means that if there are parts where Virginia was seated, if the local jurisdiction was guided by the laws of slavery, then that side would be. And so all of Washington, in effect, was a slave-only (ph) city. And you could see – and we’ll look at the little slides in a moment.
Over time, of course, the Capitol comes into existence. As you know, the War of 1812 comes. The Capitol is already built, the White House is built, it’s burned down, it moves to where the Supreme Court is. They used to call it the Old Court Square, but where the Supreme Court was also had been a slave building, where slaves was kept underground. Do you know when George Washington came, often he would come from Mount Vernon to the Capitol. As he would come, he would go to Volta Place in Northwest. Anybody know where Volta Place is, up by Georgetown? Volta Place – he’d park his carriage as he came here. And in those days, you would spend the night in a tavern. So he spent the night at a tavern with his ale and he’d park his slave in the basement. If you go to Alexandria right now, you can see the – another one of the slave markets there.
At any rate, Washington develops over time and becomes the capital. There are many things added to the flavor of the city over the time. One was – one of the first national riots was at – in Washington. That was 1835. And this is when mobs of whites at the – what is called the Washington Navy Yard were protesting because they felt they were losing their jobs to blacks who had come and forced them out. You had an interesting mob there. Compromise was made all along, and Washington, D.C. sort of went along with the basic arguments about slavery. The Compromise of 1850 allowed California to the state – as a free state, and Utah and New Mexico put the slave question to a popular vote in that sense. In 1862 – I’m sorry, let’s go back to 1850.
So you had something called – the Fugitive Slave Act was inaugurated as part of this Compromise of 1850, which simply meant that even if an area becomes slavery-free, if slaves from the free area – from the slave area went into the slave – the free areas, they would have to be returned. And so that is when Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote this book that you know about, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which he said that everybody in Washington became a bounty hunter, which meant that if you saw a person take a slave into a free territory, you had the right to run into that person’s house. The Fugitive Slave Law enacted that.
In 1862, Washington became the first place in America to abolish slavery with compensated emancipation, the only place in the world at that time where slaves had been – slave masters were compensated. And this was nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation in that sense. And of course, Lincoln did this to put pressure on the rest of the country, and of course, this year, we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. There were 3,100 slaves in Washington at the time.
As we know, in Washington, the next step came – the whole reconstruction process. And as you know, if you had a chance to go to Howard University, that was – is where the reconstruction bureau existed. The bureau of immigrants (ph), land grants, and reconstruction, which meant that it was not just to free the slaves, but it was also to save the soil and compensate the soil that had been destroyed. It was to build hospitals and all this. It’s called reconstruction. It was a period that lasted from 1865 to 1877, 12 years, until it was overthrown. But it was a period of great democracy, establishment of certain black schools.
But it also – it aided whites because it also established a system of public hospitals and schools. Let me give an example. You often hear of a – in American society, if a school has something called “State” or “AT&T” or something on the end, it generally is a black school, but it’s not always the case. Ohio State is a white school; Tennessee State is a black school. But state schools mean something for agriculture and technology. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, all these schools were built during that period, and public hospitals and things like that, during a great period.
But as we know, in 1877, this whole reconstruction period was overturned, and it’s something similar to the elections you remember with Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush. Florida decided the election. But what happened was that by – the vote was tied, and the North agreed – the South agreed that it would throw the vote (inaudible) if, in fact, reconstruction would end. And as reconstruction would end, the period of building houses and land and schools and all this for blacks – and I would just go to this. Washington still has a form of semi-democracy, but by 1870, it’s the only place in the country where black men have the right to vote, free black – well, they all were free – had the right to vote if they could pass certain qualifying tests or something like that. You remember women did not have the vote at that time.
But Congress in 1871 took back all powers in Washington, D.C. – all powers to vote, all powers for having mayor and all these things. And this ushered in a period which lasted for 100 years, the period of the – the period of lack of democracy for Washington, D.C., something that didn’t change until 1973 when, for the first time, Washington had the right to elect its own – 1983, Washington had the right to elect its own mayor. 1972, the first time that Washington had the right to vote in the presidential election.
So very quickly then, and then we will talk about a few things, let’s go very quickly through this and then you’ll see certain aspects of Washington, D.C. And it’s all self-explanatory.
(Inaudible) covers the passing right before the Congress. Every day, they have wrapped – that there are no laws against slavery. The only thing was that they would try to keep them out of sight when Congress was in session. Today, they’re building the Museum of African American History, which will be not so far away, near where this slave site was. President Lincoln, when he came here, he served one term in Congress – 1846-47 – and he tried to pass a law against slavery, but it didn’t pass.
So we go quickly to – thank you.
And this is just an advertisement that existed in papers every day. You can read – you have it in the shot there. And you just come, you just bid where you want to buy the slaves, they’re sold near Union Station – not in Union Station, but near there. There are public markets all over. Washington, D.C. is not the area with the largest number of slaves, but it’s the area that sells the largest number of slaves because people bring slaves into Washington, sell them, and then send them north – I’m sorry, south. Forgive me.
Let’s go to the next one very quick. This is a black code. A black code is – you had these in all countries. A black code is just a law that says that when people strike for freedom, society in many cases used laws to inhibit their structure. In 1808, what had happened? 1808, the international ban against slave trade is banned – is passed in England and many other places like that. So they passed the first slave black code, and what did – that meant? No blacks could assemble in more than threes. You could not go to church, anywhere, without the permission of the master. Slave trade was ended; slavery wasn’t ended. It was reissued again in 1848. In 1848, there was something called the Pearl incident, which means right on the Potomac, someone tried to sneak 100 slaves out, going up the Potomac, to try to hit the Chesapeake to try to take them through to Philadelphia. The plot was found, was discovered, and you had this big thing. Again, 1808 and then 1848 again, they passed these slave codes.
The next – and this is just a look at the Capitol of Washington, D.C. By 1836, there’s a big international – a big movement in Washington, D.C. to end slavery, and it’s mainly in Congress – the Quakers, the Wales (ph) and many others from New York and other places like that used Congress. And in fact, Congress got so upset that they start something called – they called franking privilege, which meant Congress has the right to mail things, pamphlets and things like that. But start – by 1836, they inhibited – prohibited this; anything that was sent out from Congress had to be checked. It could not have any incendiary material. It could not have any anti-slavery material.
We go to the next one, just blacks who participated in the Civil War. Now, understand that blacks had to fight for the right to fight in the Civil War. Many could not, and you remember that Fredrick Douglas – tomorrow, Fredrick Douglas – it’s a very important date for you, if you have a chance – there will be a bus prevailed or previewed on the Capitol, the first about this great emancipator, Fredrick Douglas. Fredrick Douglas went to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln knew that in order to win the war, he would have to muster in black slaves, so he did this. But in Washington, D.C., they had something called the United States Colored Infantry, the 361st, which marched up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, whites got so upset they sent them to a place called – it’s now called Roosevelt Island, which is out in the middle of the Potomac, out to train.
We go to the next one. And this, of course, is the first example of blacks who celebrated what we call D.C. emancipation, 3,000 black slaves freed. Three thousand – the slave masters were given $300 per slave, the first place in the world where slaves’ masters were compensated for slavery. In fact, Congress allowed $100,000 – $1 million for compensation, and they gave $100,000 for any slaves who wanted to go to Haiti. Some did, some didn’t. Most free blacks refused to go. They wanted democracy right here. But blacks celebrated what they called D.C. Emancipation Day until the early 1900s, when I guess the best word we could say is high-class blacks felt that it was insulting to them to see blacks parading around in their African garb and other things like that, and it stopped for over 100 years.
Go to the next one. This one of Anna Julia Cooper is one of the first – this woman was – got a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne and she started – and she was one of the leading educators in Washington, D.C. at a place called Dunbar High School. Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., right near the Capitol Hill, was perhaps the best public school in the country, educated great leaders such as Billy Taylor, the great piano player, Edward Brooke, who became the first black senator, and just many others. And this woman here, Anna Julia Cooper, was one of the first principals of that school.
Here is something that happens – as you all know, from many different countries, riots and things like that happen when people have great economic disparities. In 1919, black soldiers had come from back – World War I. I just came back from France, and in the north, about 20 miles from where I was is a city – I mean, a cemetery where the soldiers from World War I in France were buried. And many of those received the Croix de Guerre there. But as they came to America, they weren’t recognized. They went and fought in World War I and were recognized by the world and given many medals. They came here and what happened was, 1919, many events occurred. 1917, of course, the Russian Revolution had a tremendous impact on (inaudible) people from many different nationality groupings.
The same year, Great Migration – what we call the Great Migration, where over 10 million blacks moved from the South to the North – moved because of lynchings, moved because of poor crops, came to the North. And when the white soldiers came back from the war, they went – they felt that some of the blacks had taken their jobs, and so there were riots in Washington; Detroit; Tulsa; Wilmington, Delaware; Wilmington, North Carolina; all over the country. But most of the riots were started by whites. Mainly, in America when you think of riots, you always think of black people, but it’s not the case. The 1835 riot in Washington, D.C., whites.
In 19 – and then something else was happening in 1919, something that we call the Harlem Renaissance. It was the period where blacks really started documenting their life and history and it created this Harlem Renaissance, this great – a period of intellectual awakening. It was mainly centered around, first, at Howard University and then Harlem in New York. But these riots – and there were hundreds – over a 100 killed, but here in Washington, D.C., including – and so (inaudible) all the way from Library of Congress down to here. They moved very quickly (inaudible).
In the 1930s, many blacks lived in alleys, these alleys. If any of you all live in Georgetown near P Street, places like that, if you go around do you see these – some little small garages in the back of houses? Have you seen them? Well, these were alley – what they would call alley dwellings, and people would live in these very – now they cost 4-$500,000 a piece, but many blacks lived there in these areas, and also poor whites. In about 1930s, they wanted to start something called a city beautification movement, so they came in and tore down all these alleys and they forced blacks to Anacostia, across the Anacostia River.
The same year, around the same time, 1932 – the Bonus March. And this is soldiers from World War I, black and white soldiers, mainly white, who came to Washington because they had not gotten their pensions from World War I, and they had a demonstrate here in the slums, and you can see (inaudible) Southwest. So we move very quickly.
This is one of the great events in Washington history, and probably international history. Marian Anderson was a great woman, a contralto; she went to Italy to learn in Italian, to learn in the song of opera. She had been invited just to sing in Washington at Constitutional Hall, but Constitutional Hall did not allow black people in. Constitutional Hall here, the National Theater there. Black people could perform at Constitutional Hall, but they couldn’t go in and look at people. Black people could not perform at the National Theater, but they could go in and watch shows, so it’s just the opposite, different things. She couldn’t sing. One lady stood up, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who also pushed her husband on many things. And then this concert was held Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial, the largest demonstration up until that time.
Here, as we say in America, he look like white, he look white. He’s a black man, a very famous black man, who became a very important educator and had a great influence on Martin Luther King. In fact, it was he who took up the idea of (inaudible) which is Indian for true force or the land – the notion of pacifism. And Mordecai Johnson brought with him. And Dr. King heard him at Crozer High – Crozer College in Philadelphia [Crozer Theological Seminary].
There are only a couple more.
And this lady here is Mary Church Terrell. She leads this demonstration. Don’t buy what you can’t eat, and these demonstrations right up and down F Street in Washington, D.C. This is like 1950s because blacks could not go in F Street. If you walked over here where the Anderson (ph) Hotel is now, which at the time was the Wallace (ph), something like that, you could not – if you went in, looked at something – if you tried on a hat you had to buy it, try on a pair of shoes – (inaudible) I wear a size 12 – even if I wear size 12 and it only shows me a size 10, well, I’d have to put it on and I’d have to wear it, try a hat, anything else. And this lady here led the march. And you see how nice the demonstrators are dressed. And they brought a case to court called the Thompson’s Restaurant case, where restaurants were desegregating in Washington, but it was not until 1950.
Let’s move quickly.
And again, another time, another landmark in Washington history. And this had a tremendous impact. If you want to look at the difference in modern Washington and old Washington, look at pre-1968. Great poverty, but what happened is the riots occurred on the night of Dr. King’s death, over $100 million of (inaudible) damage, about four or five people killed, up near where U Street is. It went from U Street up. It didn’t come downtown, it went uptown, U Street going towards Fairmont (ph), Howard, and places like that. And the area stayed demolished really for 30-some years until development came in. There are many reasons we can talk about this.
But Congress looked, and at the time there was a man named Walter Washington. He had been appointed the commissioner of Washington, D.C., come out from New York by John Lindsay. And by appointed commissioner, he was able to quell the riots, and Congress felt that he had done such a good job that they would give what we call limited home rule. In 1973, that’s when we had the first right to elect what we call a non-voting delegate. And that person is Mrs. Holmes Norton, who you may have seen in Congress.
We go very quickly.
And of course, this is one of perhaps the most infamous incidents in Washington, D.C, happened in a Ramada right up the street at Thomas Circle, when – this is Marion Barry speaking. This is at Pitts Motor hotel. This is when he’s elected, a great place. But of course, next you know that he led a great renovation of Washington. People often criticize Washington, but do you know that more than anyone else he’s the one who brought all this modern development.
I came to Washington in the 1970s. There was no – where you are now – I mean, this was a dinky little building. I can remember coming here. If you go up and down F Street you had McBride’s and other places like that. The difference was then – it was a beauty to it, because you saw black and white and everybody coming shopping. Now these shops, you barely see any people like me in these shops because of too much – there was – are you from Washington? You’re not? Well, there’s a store from Washington called Fiennes. It was a men’s store, and men used to go in and buy their clothes and things there, and women coming by, and McBride’s, and all these places like that. So you sort of see – you see little kids – you don’t see it down here anymore.
Anyway Marion Barry came in. He’s a leader in the south of SNCC. And this Pitts Motor hotel was a place up near Howard University. Let’s go to the next. And this comes from a movie called the “9 Lives of Marion Barry.” And you see me (inaudible).
And this is just a population change of Washington that you can see. 1950s here’s the population. By 1950, you see the black population for the first time in 1957, Washington becomes the first (inaudible) majority of black population. In 1979, we elect the mayor (inaudible) Washington. But in that time, the black population is around – over – upwards of 70 percent. You see the great (inaudible) by 200 something – 2000 something’s happening, is that Washington is again recaptured – sort of in many ways sold to the highest bidders.
Public housing has been destroyed. Do you know in Washington, D.C. there’s a waiting list of over 60,000 public housing? I admit, I was somewhere the other day and I had to give a speech and I said 15,000. That’s what it was some years ago. And the head of the Housing Department of the Washington was there. “No, Professor Jackson, you got it wrong. It’s over 60,000, and it’s going up.” And the waiting list now is about 40 years that you wait to get in public housing. Public housing isn’t the best in America, maybe in Sweden and some places like that, but still it’s better than living on the streets.
But the population has changed, and so now we see the great demographic change of Washington, where from 2000 to 2010 the white population went up 60,000 and the black population went down 40,000. And this is where the American dream and American nightmare again, don’t cross each other.
Now, you all – I haven’t spoken too much about the question of voting and minority (ph) things like that. You all can ask questions of that. And (inaudible).
MODERATOR: Please move to Q&A. As you ask your questions, state your name and publication for the transcript. Any questions?
QUESTION: I have a little question
MODERATOR: Sure. Go ahead. Yeah.
QUESTION: (Off mike.) Can you explain what that was – don’t buy where you can eat?
MR. JACKSON: Okay. So it means that in restaurants, in stores – oh, let me answer. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, especially women would take their children when they went shopping. And as you went shopping you would go inside the restaurant and you’d park your children. It’s like now in eastern – in Scandinavia, places like that, it’s amazing. You see people and they go and they leave their child, and they go in and buy in the store and – but you didn’t quite do that in Washington then. But you would go park your child in the place where they would go and play with the toys and things like that, and the women would go with their gloves and things and go get a sip of tea. It’d be tea hour there, high tea, or whatnot. And then they would go and maybe go shopping.
But black people couldn’t do that. The black people would go and shop. But as I said, they could not eat in the restaurants. But if they saw a nice hat – black women like to have their hats on Sundays, man. You watch Easter, come down, and she’s going to look good. They’re going to have that nice hat on and that nice linen outfit. There’s a thing about blacks, people; you don’t have – your parents say, you have one outfit on and you go downtown shopping some night, you’re going to wear your best. For many reasons: for pride, but also you didn’t want the white folks talking about you. It’s just an old saying that we used to have.
So people would come down, they’d go shopping, but they could go in the stores, but they couldn’t eat. They couldn’t sit down there in those restaurants. And all these stores had restaurants in them. Hecht’s – well, now it’d be Macys, something like that – all the stores, I don’t know the names of them – H&M, I guess, whatever it is now, they would have little places where you would go and shop and get your clothes, and go and get something to eat at dinner, whatnot, and they had wonderful restaurants. But you couldn’t eat there. So that’s what it meant.
And a lot of times when they don’t shop, they would – essentially they’d put these picket lines where you could not cross the picket line. They got much support from labor unions and many others. And I’m going to say the greatest level of support was really from – well, between Blacks and Jewish people – now, of course, because of the Middle East, because of opinions on Israel and things like that and affirmative action. But some – because in those days, even if you walked up 14th Street, you walked through the house, you could have (inaudible) on the house. You see them now. But in those days Jewish people couldn’t even buy a house. There were covenants against Jewish people until they were taken out, into the ‘50s, and then Jewish people started moving into some of the suburbs. And really, more than any of the whites, they fought for integration in Washington. So you can see – and in fact there was a great lawyer, whose name is Joe Raul (ph), who had a building right here in this building. At the time, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, this was not just – I don’t know what’s in here now, but it wasn’t just press. There were law offices and other things like that. So it was a struggle for desegregation, as we call it.
QUESTION: Hi. I’m Matai (ph) from Japan’s (inaudible) newspaper. And actually you mentioned a little bit, but can you elaborate what happened in the term of 2000-2010, because the ratio of white to (inaudible) and the black ratio (inaudible)?
MR. JACKSON: Well, many things happened. As you know, there was – one day in infamy was the day that Marion Barry was arrested – I forget the exact year, maybe early ‘90s – up the street for crack cocaine, and it became a big crack epidemic in Washington. And crack is not like – I don’t want to minimize it, but I grew up in the inner city and I was in Washington many years, and I’ve seen many addicts and drugs addicts and things like that. And generally, sometimes if a person – if a person is able to get those drugs they can sometimes maintain themselves. Let’s say a heroin addict, if he’s buying that heroin every day, he might be in bad shape, but he could – if he had a couple hundred dollars a day he could. But crack you couldn’t do that. There’s no maintaining yourself. There’s no way of understanding what it would do to you. It just drives – and an epidemic came and it had a big effect on the whole city.
And then when the riots came, houses burned out; nobody every pulled them in. And so it became almost – the schools. The schools just went down. You wouldn’t even want to send your kids to such a school. The crime rate, everything happened, especially in the black neighborhoods, and there was no one there to help. So a lot of blacks moved out. And they moved – there are eight wards in Washington, D.C., one through eight. This would be, I think, Ward 2, the Dupont Circle area; Capitol Hill, Ward 6; Georgetown, Ward 3; and on and on and on – where I live up on 14th to 16th Street, Ward 4 and things like that.
But only certain areas were thriving. But the majority – black areas, Anacostia across the river, but up 14th Street, all that, houses just – but the unemployment rate goes way up. And then the Reagan years came. In the Reagan years there was great cuts on social welfare nets, on welfare. Reagan made a statement – something about the welfare queens, which he meant that – he was trying to say that most black women didn’t want to work, they wanted welfare – and all these pejorative statements and things like that. But Washington lost a lot of its black population.
Then something happened in later years, and it started happening during the latter years of Washington. It’s the gentrification where people came in, saw there was a great profit to make and started building these building booms. And as you know, many of these buildings here are half empty. But because you get abatements by – Washington had something called rent control, which meant that if you were in a building for so long and your building was under rent control, your rent could not go up over 10 percent. So what people did to try to make the rent up, they would just do two things. First – the first would be they had a building and they wouldn’t maintain it, so it would force the people out. Or they would try to buy out older people as people got – the other one was just build, and they started building, building, building, building.
And the corporate – a lot of corporations and things started coming in. They found a way to make Washington safer. And whites started coming back. But the blacks had to leave because then blacks couldn’t afford it. And many things happened in the process. The best example I can give you is this: When I first came to Washington in the ‘70s, if a family lived in a house – let’s say on Spring Place and 14th Street – if the family was there, they would have three kids. And they raised the three kids in the public schools. Some – one of the kids would always stay in the house after the parents died. But over a period of time, the house – the values of houses started going up. And so when one of the parents died, no one would stay there because the kids would want to divide the money – $2-300,000. And eventually it started.
The city also saw something else happen. When crack houses moved into the areas, the city didn’t do anything to police them. They condemned them. And then after they condemned them, developers would come in and buy them – they call it flipping – just buy, just buy. So a house that may have cost 50 or $60,000 one year, in five or six years is worth two or $300,000. And then something else happened. Large numbers of – when it was declared safe, many whites started coming back. A majority of whites cannot live in Georgetown; it costs about $3 million a house. So where would people start moving? To other different areas. And young people wanted to come in for internships and things like that, and they started buying up these houses. And then the jobs – Washington does not create many jobs for us, because you know in Washington the great majority of jobs require a college education.
Do you know that I think over 70 percent of African American males drop out of college any given year – high school, sorry. Large numbers of this. So you saw that trend of the lack of education. And then you saw the high-tech jobs that came into Washington, and jobs that required an education. The average white income in Washington, average, is – a family for $100,000; black income, $39,000. That’s average now. Because the average white person makes much than a $100,000, but that’s when you tie in the young people who are coming in, young people coming in as interns and things like that.
I think I saw somewhere that the wealth gap in Washington is about a hundred to one, which means from the wealthiest to the poorest. So there’s big gaps that we see. And all of these things started happening. And then the city started cleaning up the drugs, and then they fixed up U Street – whereas U street and places like that, again, it was closed. The best example would be – near U would be 8th street: 8th street was almost closed during the riots. But now you go up and down 8th street and look at all the stores. But you don’t see any black stores being opened up. So all of these things contribute to a great loss of the population and this notion of gentrification.
And unfortunately we don’t have – the city government is not doing very much about it. And then, of course, people in Washington, you really don’t have much control over – I’ll give you two big examples you know about. Washington – the one place in the country where you don’t need a gun is Washington, D.C. What do you need a gun for? A very small city. And so Washington passed gun control because there had been such – in the early ‘90s, there was such a spate of killings. So we passed the gun control law in order to outlaw handguns. But somehow Congress doesn’t want that. Now why would you want a gun in Washington D.C.?
I remember once I was coming into Washington. I was teaching up in Connecticut. I was coming here one night, and a white guy was sitting beside me. He started shaking. I say, “Sir, are you okay?” He said, “Oh, we’re in Washington D.C., murder capital.” So I looked at him, and I made jokes and things. I had to work on ships; you make a joke if it’s cold, you make a joke of everything. I said, “Sir, it’s okay. They don’t kill people like you in Washington. They kill people like me. You’ve got nothing to worry about.” (Laughter.) You see? And it was true, because the city was changing. So the black-on-black crime was occurring, but not so – it happened. So all these things, and then the schools – there was a movement in schools.
Now, schools are something quite unique. I have – my wife and I have two kids. They’re grown now. We lived in the inner city at the time. We had no money. I grew up – I lived with foster parents for some years, then I went and lived with my grandmother. So life wasn’t so easy, but I had wonderful people – my wife’s father died when she was four. So her mother didn’t have much. So we basically sort of – so everything we had we were going to put into our kids’ education. So we sent our kids to the best schools, but they had to be private. And it cost me more to send my kids to high school than it cost me to send them to college, and they went to very, very good colleges, because of the price of these schools. But we had no choice; the schools were so bad. It’s either do – but a lot of blacks chose to go to Prince George’s County, because you could buy a decent house with the money, and you could hope that you would get a good public school. It’s changing a little bit now, but the schools are still awfully expensive, and they haven’t moved up.
So there are many different conditions. And then developers come in and just start building. And so you see all these lovely – but if you look at Washington – at night – does anybody hang out down here at night? Anybody hang downtown at night?
MR. JACKSON: Where you go? Where do you go?
QUESTION: U street, usually.
MR. JACKSON: Oh, U street. I’m talking about downtown here, though. Here.
QUESTION: Downtown? Dupont Circle.
MR. JACKSON: No, here. I mean right here.
QUESTION: Here, around here?
MR. JACKSON: In this area. In this area. It’s about the dullest place in the world. Where are you going? You go to a basketball game, after that – I don’t drink, but – people look at me, “You don’t drink? Poor man.” But I used to be a sailor. I worked on ships rather, so I know what whiskey tastes like, I just don’t drink it anymore. (Laughter.)
But if you come down here, what happens? You go to – it’s dead. It’s not like New York with lights all the time. So what do you do? So the developers just built it for a certain reason. Now you have – what’s the place up here by – where all the cabinet secretaries live? Right near the Verizon Center. No, not China Town. It’s over on the other side. It’s over by – I don’t – they don’t call it Judiciary Square, but the area right between Georgia – I’m sorry, between 7th avenue and 10th Street, where a lot of houses have been built right up there near where the Verizon Center – but on this side of Verizon Center, not on China Town. Wherever it is, all these development and houses go for – I just saw a cabinet secretary sold his house and sure enough, $800,000. David Plouffe?
MR. JACKSON: David Plouffe, he sold his house; I saw it in a show for $800,000, a three bedroom house. He bought an apartment right down here because it’s easy to go to work, and all of these areas. But there’s nothing happening down here, so you go to U Street, you go to Dupont Circle. So that’s the way development and every – so you see all these buildings, but you don’t see people. And it’s really, I think, having an effect. But it brings in so much money to the city.
But lastly, I should tell you that there used to be a law that says if you work for the D.C. government, you’d have to live in the city. If you work in New York City, if you – and live in New Jersey, you pay your tax in New York City. But not in Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: Just a question about Anacostia. What’s the status of the rehabilitation and the hospital project? I mean, since I’ve been here, I don’t see much change.
MR. JACKSON: You don’t see much. When I first came to D.C. in the ‘70s, Anacostia really, by then, it had become like U Street. The U street of the time was full of drugs and things like – U Street has the highest concentration, but Anacostia was drug-ridden and poverty-ridden. Still now in Anacostia, 28 percent of the young people in Washington in Anacostia do not have jobs – 28 percent, the highest in the country.
And so you have just a lack of jobs, and no housing and things was built over there. And this is – as I said, after the city beautification period in the ‘30s, they started forcing people over to Anacostia, and they moved. Now there’s no place to go. So a lot of young white people might buy, because there are some beautiful mansions over in Anacostia, beautiful houses. Now, in the old days, whites lived there, and a lot of people from Bolling, from the military bases and things lived there. And there are some whites who never left, they just kept it quiet. And so now it is one of the last areas that can be developed. The subway is going there. They were talking about putting a soccer team over there. I think that fell through. The highways are being redone.
But the sad part about it is that the jobs that are being created there, in building the highways and construction, you very seldom see any black labor there because the people who live there aren’t being given the jobs. And you see that in – walk onto any construction site, just look up and look at the guys who are doing construction. I know some of those – look at lovely ladies and make – so just ignore them for five minutes and just look at some of the places up there. And you never – very seldom you see a black – you know how much those jobs pay? $70, $80 an hour, good insurance, very good wages, skilled – some skilled, some not. But --
QUESTION: And historically, it was the place where they black soldiers were after the war?
MR. JACKSON: A lot of soldiers lived there because the bases were over there. But as you know, soldiers don’t stay anywhere long. The base – but a lot of white soldiers stayed there too, after the war. A lot of officers and things – Bowling Air Force base and things like – I think Andrews, all those places out there. St. Elizabeth was thriving. A majority of St. Elizabeth, people in St. Elizabeth weren’t blacks. Remember, Ezra Pound, people like that, the sort of (inaudible) poet lived there. It was a national experiment. It was a national center for mental health disease. But then, over the years, they just let it degenerate.
Now the building’s worth something so the federal government is negotiating for this and Walter Reed, up 16th Street, because the federal government – did you know that over half the land in Washington, D.C. is tax exempt, and which means money can’t come into the capital. By this, I mean Walter Reed. By this, I mean St. Elizabeth. By this, I mean all of the churches. By this, I mean a lot of associations. The National Rifle Association used to be in Washington, tax exempt, but then it changed, it needed a bigger space and moved out to (inaudible). But a lot of all the big tech, the Catholic Church, all of these – my own Georgetown – tax exempt. So a large number of the – all of the embassies, and that’s why there’s always a battle about tickets, right, parking tickets and all these battles. All the embassies are tax exempt and that’s – so are a large number of the properties. All this had a big effect on the – and then, of course, the general price of living. Oh, it doesn’t cost as much as it does in France. I was in France a couple of weeks ago. Man, it was tough. Unless you – in France, if you like wine and yogurt and bread, you’ll never starve. (Laughter.) You’ll be fine. It’s a little bit different here. (Laughter.)
And so it creates all these great difficulties. Until about 10 years ago, we had the highest infant mortality rate in the country, but the city’s worked with – and then, of course, the AIDS epidemic has just had a devastating effect in Washington, both AIDS transmitted through sex but also mainly in Washington through needles. And Congress – Washington wanted to have a needle exchange, but Congress wouldn’t allow it to have it.
Every law that’s passed by the City Council has to be reviewed by Congress, every item in the budget. Anything the Washington city council passes, it can pass, but if Congress doesn’t like it, it can overrule it. Therefore, that’s the way to deal with guns, that’s the way to deal with a needle exchange.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) why is (inaudible) and why hasn’t there been a mayor for such a long time? Why isn’t there a direct representation? And why this controls through Congress? I don’t --
MR. JACKSON: Well, okay, we do have a mayor. We first elected a mayor – what happened was that in the 1870s, Congress felt that – there was a man named Bo Shepherd (ph), and you’ll see this, and Congress felt that – it was all politics, but it felt that the people of Washington were acting a bit too independently and that there were all these construction projects and things like that going on. So Congress took the power and put it into the hands of what they called commissioners, which they could control. Some of the commissioners have been Army generals. As you know, and the notion was that if you want something done, you put a general in charge because he will go in with the force of will and people – and so that’s pretty much what happened in Washington with building and things like that. But there was a lot of corruption going on so Congress took it from this man named Bo Shepherd (ph) and kept control until – and the people of Washington kept protesting, until they got this (inaudible).
And something else happened. Remember, there is in Congress something called the House District Committee. Now it’s run by a man named – it’s a different committee now; I don’t know what the name of it is, they changed it. But it’s run by a man named Issa. He’s like the man who worked 500 – for $500 million. But he’s in charge, which meant that he has overseen over everything. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was by a man named John McMillan. John McMillan was one of the staunchest segregationists in America and he was based in North Carolina, and Washington became his whole purview, because Washington represented to them black people going crazy, represented -- it was a place of black power, it was a place where there was some black expression, so to speak, even though – so in 1971, ’72, Walter Fauntroy, who was the first non-voting delegate, organized campaigns and organized people in North Carolina to overthrow McMillan. McMillan lost.
So Washington does have, starting in 1978, does have an elected mayor, but different things happened. The first elected mayor was a man named Walter Washington. Then came Marion Barry for many times. Then came a woman named Sharon Pratt Dixon, the first and only woman mayor. And then came Marion Barry again. Then, as you may not remember, but during the ‘80s Congress took control over all financial aspects of Washington – something called the Financial Control Board. It was modeled after (inaudible) in New York. I don’t know if you remember that.
Anyway, Anthony Williams, who became the mayor, had worked for the Treasury Department some and he became – they liked the way he had – it’s almost like what’s happening in Detroit now, right? So they liked the way he was running this, so he became the elected mayor. And he did bring in a level of fiscal responsibility and things like that, and the budgets went – and into surplus and so forth. Then after that, another man named Fenty came in. He lasted only four years. And now we have the Mayor there. So we do have elected – and we do have elected Congress, but a lot of things have changed – a lot of things.
Any law, at any time ever since the 1870s, and when they wrote the home rule charter – it still is in there that everything – why? Because Washington is a territory. It’s like Guam or like the Virgin Islands or like Puerto Rico, even though in Puerto Rico you don’t pay taxes. They don’t pay state taxes. But, in none of those places – all of them have non-voting delegates because we are seen as a territory because of the debate about whether or not Article 1, Section 8, the clause about Washington and the federal enclave, whether that means just that federal enclave or whether it means the whole of Washington. People who advocate statehood say that Congress really intentionally meant it for that, except – which meant from the Capitol to the other side of the White House, that area, the federal enclave, the governing part. And that is debated.
And then another question is why does Congress want to run D.C. It’s just a way of meddling in it. But it’s because – probably because of what Kennedy said: too black, too liberal, too urban, too poor. So now – and what happens is every time there’s a problem or scandal, and we’ve had too many lately – we’ve had quite a few lately. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois was the great black intellectual of the 20th century. He was probably one of the great intellectuals of all time. Founded the pan-African movement. The father of the modern civil rights movement, founded the NAACP, and all of those things. And he once said some blacks want the equal right to do wrong. And I suppose you could apply that to any people. You want the equal right. And what they say – the white man got away with it, I get away with it. Because, you see, whites come in today and all the wealth is mainly owned by whites, and some politicians – excluding black politicians – have sort of acted like that and acted like the city was going to be theirs, and they’ve done awful things. But it’s not an indictment of all black people, no more than having a lousy white president is an indictment of all whites. It’s not true.
But D.C. sort of now is in an economic crisis, a crisis of political leadership, and most importantly, the crisis of so many blacks who left. Washington, D.C., people came here after the – during the time of the Civil War and then after. So this was sort of a Mecca. It was where black people came hoping for freedom. And in the time, it did exist that way. But now, the dream has sort of been forsaken. So it is that – and then Washington, I think it’s the only – it’s the last city in the country, in the world, capital city, after Pretoria, where you don’t – where the people of the nation’s capital don’t really control their own fate. And that’s why many people are pushing for Washington to become the 51st state. Doesn’t sound right? Well, Washington has more population than two or three states. I think North – I think South Dakota, Vermont and a couple of others – Rhode Island, Wyoming. Thank you. Wyoming, it has a bigger population. It used to be six or seven of some other states, but the Washington population is going back up now. As you know, it slid in the ‘80s and it’s creeping back up. Now it’ll be (inaudible) pretty soon.
QUESTION: Do you think that there is any chance that Washington becomes 51st state?
MR. JACKSON: Well, the window of opportunity existed, and it existed really probably in the early 200s (ph). From 1988 to 2000, statehood was in the platform of the Democratic Party, for many, many years, then it was somehow taken out. In the late 1990s, statehood did pass certain – in certain states, because it had to go through the states, and any number of states voted for the amendment.
Now, I think it’s a lovely notion, I support it, but I think it won’t be anytime soon. The Congress wouldn’t allow the states, not in that direction, even though we have a Democrat – our President, who’s a Democrat; of course, the Democrats do not control the Congress. And I don’t know if many in the Senate would vote for it. We had a big debate a couple of – a debate with the woman who – Mrs. Norton, who was delegate of the Congress, a brilliant constitutional lawyer, and she was making a deal – was it Nevada? – where they would – huh?
QUESTION: Utah, no? (Inaudible.)
MR. JACKSON: Utah, Utah. Thank you. Thank you very much. It was Utah where they’d make a deal, and so Utah was – Washington would support Utah getting an extra congressional delegate or representative in Washington. Because Mrs. Norton – when the Democrats – when she can’t do it now, but I think when Bill Clinton was in, she could vote in committees and she could – but now she can’t even vote in committee. She can vote in the committee as a whole, but she cannot vote if it’s near a tie. So she can’t break a vote, she can’t do anything like that.
So it’s a non-voting delegate with a non – so right now, it really depends. The Democratic Party has taken it out of its platform. It’s not – it’s only recently that I think Mr. Obama put it on his plate, taxation without representation became a big thing thanks to that Clinton put it – Bill Clinton put it on in his second term. And so many in Washington feel the President has not made this a concern of his. And he’s right, he’s not the President of black America; he’s the President of America. There are a lot of Americans of all colors who live here in Washington, D.C.
When it comes – no, I don’t think. But should there be a struggle for it? Well, of course. Because if there hadn’t been a struggle for integration in Washington, it wouldn’t have come. A lot of other things. It’s one – it’s probably the last big – one of the great big democratic testing grounds in that sense.
MODERATOR: Are there any final questions? We’ve got time for one or two. I thought we had from New York there. I guess not. One last call. Are there any final questions? Okay. Well, thank you, professor.
MR. JACKSON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: The event is now concluded.
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