Gentrification Conversations

In Februrary, right before the pandemic drove us all inside, the DC Oral History Collaborative reached out with amazing news: they are funding my project!

By some measures, Washington D.C.s 20001 zip code contains the most gentrified neighborhood in the country. The same Victorian-style rowhouse that is ubiquitous throughout Shaw and Bloomingdale sold for $8,000 in the 1950s and is now on the market for $1.4 million (and the sale prices rise daily.)

Throughout 2019, I sat in living rooms throughout the area and collected oral histories from eight residents who arrived in the area at different times over the last 70 years, from a woman who was born here in the 1940s to one who bought in 2016.

Together, they have seen this area go from poor and peaceful to an open-air drug market to wealthy and amenity-filled, and from full to near-vacant to full again. Neighborhood schools were officially segregated, then school integration and white flight left them with de facto segregation, and now they are integrating, with all-white PTOs leading majority non-white schools. Parents grapple with sensitive power dynamics.

The oral histories I collected tell the story of the neighborhood.

I’ll be creating a podcast series, “Gentrification Conversations,” to bring all these voices to the public. Stay tuned!

The DC Oral History Collaborative is a project of HumanitiesDC, the DC Public Library, and the Historical Society.