Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital

Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove. Univ. of North Carolina, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-1-4696-3586-6
Asch (The Senator and the Sharecropper), who teaches history at Colby College, and Musgrove, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, embrace the funk band Parliament’s moniker for the District of Columbia and deliver a narrative as grand as the city itself. The authors show how disenfranchisement has been the game in D.C. ever since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton made a deal to move the U.S. capital to the slaveholding South. Washington, straddling the divide between Southern bondage and its own comparatively relaxed racial norms, became a mecca for enslaved and free African-Americans alike. Political machinations ensured that Congress, rather than Washington’s white elite, held the real reins of power; even after black men got the right to vote in 1867, they were unable to make inroads. Black and white residents wrestled for decades over segregated housing and schools until the post-WWII era. The authors’ exceptional storytelling shines in their accounts of black inhabitants’ long drive for home rule (local, rather than Congressional, control over the city’s affairs), which was finally and triumphantly achieved in 1973, and the new racial and political fault lines that emerged thereafter. This enriching journey showcases the underappreciated saga of African-American success in the face of adversity. Agency: Garamond Agency. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/13/2017
Release date: 11/01/2017
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