You are here
DC Itinerary: 5 Days of Civil Rights
- Walk the halls of Cedar Hill, once the private estate of abolitionist Frederick Douglass
- Visit Freedom Plaza, a popular rallying spot dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Salute the day at Arlington National Cemetery, founded as a burial spot for Civil War soldiers
Walk in the halls of Cedar Hill in Anacostia. Now the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the house was once the private estate of the famous abolitionist and boasts sweeping views of the city. Nearby, the Anacostia Community Museum hosts collections on black life and an exhibit on Negro League baseball.
Zip to Union Station on Metro and feast on soul food at B. Smith’s. Walk up Capitol Hill and browse the exhibits at the Library of Congress. The world’s largest library houses the papers of Frederick Douglass and educator Booker T. Washington. Pay a visit to the Supreme Court, where many landmark decisions were delivered. You might even catch the court in action.
Park it at the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. In front of a crowd that included then President Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass delivered the keynote address at its dedication in 1876. The park is also the site of a memorial to education activist Mary McLeod Bethune.
Start with a tasty Southern breakfast at the Florida Avenue Grill. Stroll "The Yard" at Howard University, alma mater of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and actress Phylicia Rashad.
Walk to Dupont Circle though the handsome Strivers Section, an upscale African American enclave at the turn of the 20th century. The flat-fronted row houses on the 1700 block of T Street NW are among the earlier examples. Spy the Walt Whitman quotation from "The Wound-Dresser" carved into the north entrance of Dupont Circle Metro station. The poet volunteered as a nurse in DC during the Civil War.
Take Metro to Farragut North station and walk across Lafayette Park to The White House. Look for the Freedman's Bank; Frederick Douglass served as its president after the war. It’s an ideal stop before cocktails atop the W Hotel or a Lowcountry dinner (with a side of Southern hospitality) at Georgia Brown’s.
Catch the sunrise from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A temple of contemplation, the building features 36 columns, one for each state in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Find the plaque that marks the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when he addressed a crowd of 250,000 at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.
Walk down the National Mall to Freedom Plaza, a popular rally dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who completed his "I Have a Dream" speech at the nearby Willard Intercontinental Hotel.
Once the sun goes down, chill out on U Street. Grab a "half-smoke" at Ben's Chili Bowl - Bill Cosby does when he’s in town. Stop by the African American Civil War Memorial, then settle in for some jazz at Bohemian Caverns or HR-57.
Start the day with a look back in time at the National Archives. This treasure house holds many of America’s most important documents, notably the Constitution and Emancipation Proclamation (the fragile original Emancipation Proclamation goes on display once a year in January). It also houses millions of personal documents. Look up your great-great-grandparents. It was here that author Alex Haley researched his family tree and found the inspiration for his novel "Roots."
Take Metro to Foggy Bottom and stop for lunch at one of the restaurants that stud the narrow streets of Georgetown. Afterwards, stroll the brick sidewalks to 3307 N Street NW. President and Mrs. Kennedy lived at this tony address before they moved into The White House. Continue on foot to the Georgetown University campus. Patrick Healy, who headed the college from 1874 to 1882, was the first African American to earn a Ph.D.
Sup on barbecue at Old Glory and score a cone of gelato at Dolcezza, then watch the sunset over the Potomac from K Street’s waterfront park.
Salute the day at Arlington National Cemetery, where Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, President John F. Kennedy and heavyweight hero Joe Louis were laid to rest. The 200-acre site was founded in 1864 as a burial place for Civil War soldiers. The cemetery’s southern section was once known as Freedmen’s Village and served as a home for freed and fugitive slaves during and immediately following the war.
Catch the Metro to Metro Center and refuel over lunch at Matchbox, a casual burger and pizza joint. It’s a five-minute walk to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where many bright canvases by painter and longtime Howard University professor Lois Mailou Jones are on display.
Downtown is peppered with historic spots. Among the lesser known but close to the gallery is Asbury United Methodist Church. Founded in 1836, it is the city’s oldest continuous African American congregation. In 2003, the National Park Service added the church to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Close the set with live jazz and hot wings at Takoma Station Tavern, near the Metro stop of the same name on 4th Street NW. It’s a popular neighborhood spot were Washingtonians enjoy music, some of it written two generations ago by notable local Duke Ellington.