George Derek Musgrove and Chris Myers Asch: Not Gone, Not Forgotten: Struggling Over History in a Gentrifying D.C.

Roundup: Talking About History

George Derek Musgrove is an assistant professor of history at University of Maryland Baltimore County and the author of “Rumor Repression and Racial Politics: How the Harassment of Black Elected Officials Shaped Post-Civil Rights America (University of Georgia Press, 2012).

Chris Myers Asch is the author of “The Senator and the Sharecropper: The Freedom Struggles of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer” (University of North Carolina Press, 2011). They are collaborating on a book about race and democracy in the District.

Who remembers the Irish of Swampoodle? The Jews of Petworth? The working-class whites of Anacostia? The blue-collar black community of Georgetown?

For all but the most serious students of D.C. history, these once-vibrant communities are gone and forgotten, lost to the past in an ever-changing city that celebrates the new, the famous and the powerful. Yet the fact that those groups no longer live in those neighborhoods and that we know so little about them can help us understand why current discussions of gentrification can be so heated. 

Simply put, people do not want to be gone or forgotten.

From our pulpits and papers to our blogs and barbershops, Washingtonians are grappling with a city that is becoming younger, wealthier — and whiter. Fears of displacement and “swagger jacking” meet accusations of “black Columbusing” and reverse racism as demographic changes and development force District residents to confront difficult issues of race, class, power and history....

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