Black history: Influential leaders who called DC home

Portrait of American educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 - 1955) with the United States Capital Building in the background, circa 1950. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)

The daughter of former slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune was a leading educator and civil rights activist, known for founding what would eventually become Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, founding the National Council of Negro Women and serving as an administrator during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. Bethune’s last home in D.C., at 1318 Vermont Ave. NW (now known as the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House) is a National Historic Site. This photo was taken in front of the United States Capital Building in the background, circa 1950. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Chuck Brown (1936–2012)

Known as the “Godfather of Go-Go,” Chuck Brown shaped the sound that’s come to identify D.C. sound. Musicologists characterize this distinct musical form as a blend of Latin beats, African call-and-response, jazz and R&B. He’s credit Brown with pioneering the sound and bringing it national exposure after his single “Bustin’ Loose” became a No. 1 hit in 1978. In 2015, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., declared Aug. 22 as “Chuck Brown Day.” 

Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, right, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize diploma, in box, from Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee, at Oslo University, Norway on Dec. 10, 1950.  Dr. Bunche, the only African-American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized for his role as United Nations mediator in the peace settlement between Palestinian-Arabs and Jews in 1949.  (AP Photo)
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche (1904–1971)

Noted political scientist and diplomat Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, right, received the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1950. Bunche, the first African-American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized for his role as United Nations mediator in the peace settlement between Palestinian-Arabs and Jews in 1949. He lived in D.C. for a time and taught at Howard University. (AP Photo)

circa 1855: American abolitionist, writer and former slave, Frederick Douglass, originally Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (1817 - 1895).   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Frederick Douglass is one of the most well-known abolitionists in American history. His autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” gives a first-person account of the cruelty of slavery and is a treatise on abolition. His D.C. home, a 21-room Victorian mansion at 1411 W. St. SE in Anacostia, is a National Historic Site. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)
Famed African America poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose works influenced Harlem Renaissance writers during the 1920s, lived in Washington D.C. in the late 1800s. According to federal records, he worked as a research assistant at the Library of Congress but left after his health deteriorated. He lived at LeDroit Park with his wife, Alice, but suffered poor health. In 1916, D.C. renamed its high school for African-American youths after the poet: Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, at 101 N. St. NW. (Courtesy: Library of Congress)
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)

Famed African America poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose works influenced Harlem Renaissance writers such as Langston Hughes, lived in D.C. in the late 1800s. According to federal records, he worked as a research assistant at the Library of Congress but did not keep the job. He lived at LeDroit Park with his wife, Alice, but suffered poor health. In 1916, D.C. named a high school after the poet. Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School exists today at 101 N. St. NW. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

19th February 1967:  American big band leader and legendary jazz pianist Duke Ellington (1899 - 1974), composer of between 2000 / 5000 tunes.  (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)
Duke Ellington (1899–1974)

The renowned jazz musician was a D.C. native and was a mainstay on what was known as “Black Broadway” on U Street. According to Library of Congress records, he started playing the piano at age 7, inspired by his mom, and by the time he was 20 had formed a band and moved to New York City, earning a perch as Cotton Club’s house band and going on to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. D.C.’s Duke Ellington School for the Arts bares his name today, though his legacy is still felt throughout the city. This photo was taken Feb. 19 1967. (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)

Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye (1939–1984)

Grammy Award winning soul singer Marvin Gaye is one of the District’s most famous musicians. He was born at Freedman’s Hospital to minster Marvin Gaye Sr., singing in church at age 4 and he was part of many singing groups as a student at Cardozo High School. Eventually, Gaye would become part of the Motown sound, earning the nickname as the Prince of Soul. Today, there are many D.C. landmarks bearing Gaye’s name, including Marvin Gaye Park in Northeast. According to D.C. records, Gaye grew up in the East Capital Dwellings on 60th Street, near the park’s east end. This is a photo from Jan. 17, 1983. (AP Photo/Doug Pizac, File)

 

Portrait of American poet, author, and journalist Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967) laughing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

The Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes moved to D.C. in 1924 to live with his mother, according to federal records. During his time in the District, Hughes worked as a busboy and was discovered by another poet Vachel Lindsay — a story line that was the inspiration for D.C.’s own Busboys and Poets eatery. It’s said that the people he encountered along Seventh Street inspired his book of poetry, “Weary Blues,” in 1926. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

FILE - Carter G. Woodson in an undated photograph. Woodson is a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently-freed Virginia slaves who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea as Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history.  (AP Photo)
Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950)

Carter G. Woodson, shown here in an undated photograph, is considered the father of African American history. Woodson was the son of freed Virginia slaves and went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard. He came up with the idea as Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history. He founded the Association for the Study of African American History, at 1538 Ninth St. NW, which was also his home. Today, the home is designated as a National Historic Site.

Mary Church Terrell
Suffragette and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell led the push to integrate D.C. eateries and also persuaded the National Association of University Women to admit black members. She was a founder of the NAACP’s Executive committee and was the first black woman in the U.S. to earn an appointment to a school board. She lived at 326 T. St. NW in LeDroit Park. Her husband, Robert A. Terrell, was the first African-American municipal judge. (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954)

Suffragette and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell led the push to integrate D.C. eateries and also persuaded the National Association of University Women to admit black members. She was a founder of the NAACP’s executive committee and was the first black woman in the U.S. to earn an appointment to a school board. She lived at 326 T. St. NW in LeDroit Park. Her husband, Robert A. Terrell, was the first African-American municipal judge. This photo was taken between 1880 and 1900. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

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Portrait of American educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 - 1955) with the United States Capital Building in the background, circa 1950. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, right, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize diploma, in box, from Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee, at Oslo University, Norway on Dec. 10, 1950.  Dr. Bunche, the only African-American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized for his role as United Nations mediator in the peace settlement between Palestinian-Arabs and Jews in 1949.  (AP Photo)
circa 1855: American abolitionist, writer and former slave, Frederick Douglass, originally Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (1817 - 1895).   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)
Famed African America poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose works influenced Harlem Renaissance writers during the 1920s, lived in Washington D.C. in the late 1800s. According to federal records, he worked as a research assistant at the Library of Congress but left after his health deteriorated. He lived at LeDroit Park with his wife, Alice, but suffered poor health. In 1916, D.C. renamed its high school for African-American youths after the poet: Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, at 101 N. St. NW. (Courtesy: Library of Congress)
19th February 1967:  American big band leader and legendary jazz pianist Duke Ellington (1899 - 1974), composer of between 2000 / 5000 tunes.  (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)
Marvin Gaye
Portrait of American poet, author, and journalist Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967) laughing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - Carter G. Woodson in an undated photograph. Woodson is a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently-freed Virginia slaves who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea as Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history.  (AP Photo)
Mary Church Terrell
Suffragette and civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell led the push to integrate D.C. eateries and also persuaded the National Association of University Women to admit black members. She was a founder of the NAACP’s Executive committee and was the first black woman in the U.S. to earn an appointment to a school board. She lived at 326 T. St. NW in LeDroit Park. Her husband, Robert A. Terrell, was the first African-American municipal judge. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON — February is Black History Month — a great opportunity to learn more about African American leaders and notable Washingtonians who influenced society, culture and the push for equal rights.

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