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Memorial to Father of Black History Features Statue, New Landscaping

Accompanying images can be viewed in the December 2015 issue pdf

By P.L. Wolff

On a mild and sunny Saturday, December 5, 2015, the Shaw community dedicated a completely made-over Carter G. Woodson Park honoring the memory this revered man who lived and worked in the neighborhood and is considered to have been the “father” of African-American history. The ceremony was part of observances of the 140th anniversary of the historian’s birth and the centennial of the establishment of the association he founded, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Construction of the park, located at 9th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, NW, features the bronze sculpture, completed this past summer, of a seated Dr. Woodson by nationally recognized and honored (and Washington-based) sculptor Raymond Kaskey. Woodson’s home and office at 1538 9th Street, NW, was designated a National Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It is currently being renovated as an historic house museum by the National Park Service and projected to be open for tours by the end of 2016.

According to Shaw Main Streets Executive Director Alexander M. Padro, his organization “is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the bronze statue of Dr. Woodson . . . using funding provided as part of the mitigation of negative impacts resulting from the construction of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We’re pleased to bring the Shaw community together to dedicate this monument to such an important local and national hero.”

Carter G. Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia, the son of former slaves. A Harvard-trained historian, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. After initially being housed in offices on the 1200 block of U Street, NW, Woodson moved the association and his residence to 1538 9th Street, NW, in 1922. From that location he promoted what is now known as Black History Month and published books, journals, and teaching materials on African-American history and culture; he was also a co-founder in 1915 of The Journal of Negro History.

Woodson also served as a DC Public Schools high school principal and Howard University dean. He died in Washington in 1950, though the organization he founded continued to occupy the 9th Street house until the early 1970s.

The park was named by the DC City Council in honor of Carter G. Woodson in 2001 as part of an effort to draw attention to the plight of the adjacent Woodson house, which was vacant and occupied by squatters at the time. The house appeared on the DC Preservation League’s list of 10 Most Endangered Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 Most Endangered Places in America that year. In 2003, Congress authorized the establishment of the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, and the National Park Service subsequently acquired 1538 9th Street, NW and two adjacent buildings. Renovation and construction on the Woodson house and adjacent row houses began in 2015.

Copyright © 2015 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Shaw Main Streets, Inc. All rights reserved.