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Every Step Tells A Story®

Click on the map above or select a module below to take your first step 

Spanning over eight miles, this one-of-a-kind loop through the city will explore DC’s extraordinary history, culture, and struggle for freedom and equality for ALL. 

51 Steps To Freedom is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds, slave quarters, parks, homes, gardens, and 51 historic stops (steps) that tell the story of America's quest for justice and democracy.

General Oliver Otis Howard 

Reverend Patrick Francis Healy

1

Georgetown

 

Georgetown was 50% Black in the 1770s to the 1960s (today it is 6%). Georgetown was also a major slave and tobacco trading port. Much of DC’s early great Black leadership came out of Georgetown where the church and education were early components of free persons of color in DC. Here you'll find the oldest Black church in DC, its historic cemetery and many hidden gems and stories not covered in traditional school books.

Steps Include: 

  1. Emma V. Brown Home

  2. Alfred Pope, Hannah Cole Pope Home

  3. Holy Rood Cemetery 

  4. Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Female Union Band Society Cemetery & Mt. Zion Heritage Center, Jerusalem Baptist ChurchFirst Baptist Church, Herring Hill

  5. John H. Fleet Home

  6. Yarrow Mamout Residence 

  7. Patrick Francis Healy Hall, Georgetown University

  8. Rose Park, The Peters sisters, Margaret & Roumania

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Patrick_Francis_Healy.jpg

Did You Know?

Howard University was founded by Union General Oliver Otis Howard — he was White. Father Patrick Healey, who was born into slavery, is considered the Co-Founder of modern day Georgetown University. He was  also the first Black Jesuit priest in the US.

3

Striver's Section/Dupont Circle East

 

The Striver's Section was historically an enclave of upper-middle-class African Americans, often community leaders, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Striver's Section takes its name from a turn-of-the-20th-century writer who described the district as "the Striver's section, a community of Black aristocracy" focused on striving for freedom and equality.  

Steps Include: 

17. The Charles Hamilton Houston Home
       & The Langston Hughes Hom

18. Delta Sigma Theta & Kappa Alpha Psi DC
      Headquarters, and Zeta Phi Beta DC headquarters

19. Mary Church Terrell Home

20. The Josephine Butler Center at Malcolm X Park 

21. Charles and Lewis Douglass Homes

22. General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. and Sr. Homes

23. St. Augustine Catholic Church

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Did You Know?

There were slave quarters on the grounds of The White House and The Decatur House.

5

U St. Corridor, Shaw & LeDroit Park

Known as "The Black Mecca", these contiguous communities are known as one of America’s most historic Black locations. This area boasts more historic churches, homes, venues, events, and personalities per capita than any Black community in the Nation. 

Steps Include: 

  29. Georgia Douglas Johnson Home

  30. Dr. Alain Locke Home

  31. Jean Toomer Home

  32. Franklin Reeves Center, Club Bali, Dr. MLK’s Poor
         Peoples Campaign Office

  33. Ben’s Chili Bowl, Jelly Roll Morton, The Jungle
          Inn, 
Lincoln Theater, The Colonnade

  34. New Negro Alliances Sanitary Grocery Store
         Protest Site
Lee’s Florist, Bohemian
         Caverns
Industrial Bank of Washington, DC historic
          murals walk

  35. The African American Civil War Museum, The
         Grimke School

  36. The Addison Scurlock Studio

  37. The Howard Theatre & Chuck Brown Way

  38. Congressman Oscar DePriest HomePaul
         Lawrence and Alice Dunbar Home & 
Howard
         University

  39. Dr. Anna Julia Cooper HomeMayor Walter
         Washington Home, Jesse Jackson, Sr. Home

  40. Dr. Carter G. Woodson Home, Woodson
         Monument & Park & Shiloh Baptist Church

  41. The A. Philip Randolph Home

  42. Blanche Kelso Bruce & Josephine Bruce Home 

Did You Know?

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Pearl Bailey was brought up in D.C. and got her start on U Street. She coined the phrase  "America's Black Broadway" for the area. She returned to DC in her late 60's to study theology at Georgetown University earning her BA in 1985. Grammy and Tony award winner Pearl Bailey was appointed as a special ambassador to the United Nations by President Ford  in 1975. In 1988 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan. 

"Without a struggle,
there can be no progress." 

~ Frederick Douglass

2

Foggy Bottom/Dupont Circle West

 

Original tobacco slave quarters were located here starting in the 1770s when the British tall ships moved slave and tobacco from Africa and England to America. From 1840 - 1970, this area was majority Black (today Foggy Bottom is 9.6% and Dupont Circle is 6%). The community boasts of the homes of Dr. Charles Drew, Duke Ellington, Dr. Rayford Logan, Mrs. Rosa Parks' home-away-from-home as well as an underground railroad site and more.

Steps Include:

9.  O Museum in The Mansion

10. The Stevens School

11. Lisner Auditorium, Ingrid Bergman Call Box & The      
      Toni Morrison Bench, The Nelson Ma
ndela Garden

12. The Dr. Dorothy I. Height Bench

13. St. Mary's Episcopal Church

14. The Leonard Grimes Underground Railroad
      Site & 
The Alexander Pushkin Statue

15. Dr. Charles Drew & Dr. Rayford Logan Homes

16. Duke Ellington Birth-site and Mural, Bo Diddley's
      Home & Recording Studio

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Did You Know?

Bo Diddley — The legendary singer, guitarist, songwriter and music producer who played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll lived in Foggy Bottom and had a recording studio on Rhode Island Avenue, N.E. from 1956-1966.  He discovered Marvin Gaye (a DC resident) and introduced him to Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. The rest is history.

4

Anacostia

In the 1850s, America was heading toward a deadly confrontation between free and slave states. To promote unity between the North and the South, this area in Southeast DC was initially named Uniontown.  It was a White suburban community at the time.  After the "Uncivil War", new towns called Uniontown started cropping up all over, creating confusion for services like mail delivery. To ease the confusion, Congress enacted legislation to change the name to Anacostia on April 22, 1886, making Anacostia the only community whose name was affixed by Congress.  The name Anacostia was derived from a Native American word meaning “village trading center.”  

Steps Include: 

  24. Anacostia’s Home Grown Black Business Corridor

  25. Frederick Douglass Home on Cedar Hill

  26. Barry Farm/Hillsdale (Freedmen's Village) & The                  Goodman League, The Hillsdale School​, The Birney
         School, 
Campbell AME, The John Moss House​​

  27. Macedonia BaptistThe Solomon Brown House

  28. United States Colored Cemetery & St. Elizabeths
          Hospital, 
Mayor Marion Barry Home 

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Did You Know?

Frederick Douglass and Mrs. Rosa Parks' funerals were held 90 years apart at the Metropolitan AME Church off of Dupont Circle.

6

Downtown & The National Mall

This is center of our Nation's Capital and is "America's Front Yard." It is home to some of our Nation's most iconic sites.  But many of the stories on the National Mall and downtown are not taught in our history books because they highlight the horror of what happens when economics and personal beliefs allow for the oppression of one group over another. 

 

In American history, each major episode against oppression is a step toward freedom. This section of the city is a paradox — full of contradictory words and actions. It is where our federal government made the rules — and at the same time owned those they were ruling.  

 

ALL groups who fought and won their freedom have some connection with this part of DC — Blacks, women, Native Americans, Muslims, Asians, hispanics, LGBTQA+, and those with disabilities —  it is here that they coalesce to have their voices heard and enact change.  It is where we help define who America is going to become. What history and this part of DC teaches us is that by speaking up —  we CAN make a difference.


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”              — Jimi Hendrix

Steps Include: 

  43. The 1848 Slave Escape on The Pearl, The National
          Era Newspaper, Beecher’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The 1835
          Snow Riot, 
7th Street and The Red Summer of 1919​

  44. DC's Slave Market and Slave Pens, Central Market at The
         National Archives, The National Council of Negro Women,

  45. DAR Hall/Marion Anderson

  46. Charles Sumner School

  47. The Ford’s Theater

  48. The Willard Hotel, & The John A. Wilson Bldg. and Mayor
         Marion Barry

  49. The Lincoln Memorial  & The Martin Luther King,
          Jr. Memorial, 
The National Museum of African
          American History & Culture

  50. Metropolitan AME Church, Charles Sumner School,
          James Wormley Hotel, Franklin Squa
re 

  51.   Black Lives Matter Plaza, The White House, St. Johns
          Church, 
The Decatu
House Slave Quarters, 
          
Lafayette Square

NOTE: Bold text denotes African American Heritage Trail Site

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