Its proximity to Howard University was certainly an important factor in this phase of its development. Eventually the city’s slums would become the targets of urban renewal, a process which has resulted to a great extent in Black removal. As early as 1914, the Congress passed laws which would outlaw alley housing after 1918, and the Alley Dwelling Act of 1934 provided that the worst areas be razed and the inhabitants relocated. However, little was done during the first half of this century. By World War II, Foggy Bottom and Southwest remained well populated, although the greatest number of Blacks lived in the community surrounding the U Street shopping area. Most other Blacks were scattered among the Ivy City, Barry Farm, Deanwood, Ft. Reno, Kingman Park and Capitol View areas of the city. The coming of the war and the influx of Black workers saw little real improvement in housing. Segregation was the common reality and racially restrictive housing covenants were strictly enforced, though vigorously challenged. Banks refused to make loans to Blacks for houses not in predominantly Black areas, and owners, builders and realtors all conspired to prevent Blacks from enjoying housing mobility. This situation would not change until the courts began to outlaw segregationist policies and practices in the third quarter of the century.

     Achievements by Blacks in employment, particularly in the government, declined significantly in the twentieth century. While many craftsmen were able to use their skills in the development of various large city projects, such as the Union Station which opened in 1907, service trades offered the greatest opportunity to enter business and to learn and develop entrepreneurial skills. A large percentage of Blacks worked as unskilled laborers and domestics. The city’s public services remained segregated, and Blacks entered them slowly and grudgingly. They were not welcomed in labor unions until the Congress of Industrial Organizations opened its membership in the late 1930s. Blacks in the federal service experienced a gradual abandonment of their aspirations by succeeding administrations. While they overwhelmingly held the lowest paying and least responsible positions in government, they numbered some ten percent of the federal work force in Washington in 1891. Theodore Roosevelt had implemented a fair merit system for government service while Civil Service Commissioner under Benjamin Harrison. When he became President he appointed several Blacks and retained several from the previous administration. Although his successor, William Howard Taft, appointed several Blacks also, including Robert Terrell as a municipal judge, he succeeded in alienating the local Black community by appointing individuals from elsewhere when qualified local citizens were available. 


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November 2000