The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People established itself in Washington in 1912, and a strong chapter had developed at Howard University by 1916. The Elks, Oddfellows, Masons and Knights of Pythias reflected a longstanding and solid base of fraternalism, and organizations developed at Howard University early in the twentieth century, including Omega Psi Phi fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta sororities, would come to have a major national influence. In addition, the Twelfth Street YMCA (1912) and the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA (1905) were important additions to the city’s community life.

     Despite the many significant gains accomplished by developments in education and the cultural and fraternal life of the community, no institution has played a more significant role in the community’s viability than the church. Since their inception, churches have provided leadership, educational and social opportunities not otherwise available. Blacks established their first independent congregation, Mt. Zion Negro Church of Georgetown, in 1814. Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal, Asbury Methodist, Fifteenth Street Presbyterian and Nineteenth Street Baptist are all major congregations today which trace their roots well into the nineteenth century. Bishop Daniel Payne, of the A.M.E. Church, founded the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, and Alexander Crummell, rector at St. Lukes Episcopal, was considered by many to be one of the foremost intellectuals of his time. Francis J. Gimke of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian and Walter Brooks of Nineteenth Street Baptist were among the influential churchmen whose careers began in the nineteenth century and lasted well into the twentieth. These churches and others provided a host of opportunities and activities for their members and visitors which were otherwise unavailable to most of the capital’s Black citizens. They joined with many others in the twentieth century to form the backbone of the community’s social infrastructure.

     Since the city was well known for its highly literate Black community, it was not unexpected that a vibrant press would develop in response to the lack of news about or views from the Black community in the city’s other newspapers. This press did develop and it included Frederick Douglass’ New Era (1870-1874) and E.E. Cooper’s Colored American (1898-1904). Moreover, no paper was as bold, or as historically and politically important as The Washington Bee. Founded by William Calvin Chase in 1882, and edited and published by him until his death in 1922, the Bee lived up to its slogan: "Stings for Our Enemies – Honey for Our Friends." The often caustic Chase was unrelenting in his indictment of those aligned against the best interests of Blacks as he saw them, and unswerving in his advocacy on behalf of his people. The Tatler, Washington Tribune and Washington edition of the Afro-American would also contribute to a lively Black press in the twentieth century.

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November 2000