Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library, the folks at Greater Greater Washington will be hosting a discussion on one of the quintessential books on local politics: “Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.” The discussion will be moderated by The Post’s Mike DeBonis and feature the book’s two authors, Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe, who remain involved in covering, analyzing and parsing local politics for NBC4 and the Examiner (among other outlets), respectively.
I read the book early on in my time in the District, and it served as an invaluable primer on the District’s history and stunted political establishment. Explains GGW’s John Muller:
Dream City probes the pathos of DC that by the late 1950s had become majority black, albeit with two distinct factions. A strong-middle class of largely government workers coexisted with a dependent class less than a generation removed from living in the alleys or deep South. Both divergent groups of the city’s black populace were equally subjugated by Democratic Southern segregationists that controlled all aspects of municipal government.
Due to the city’s status as a step-child of the Federal government, an indigenous political machine, unable to control patronage, was never able to emerge. When the city was awarded home rule in 1973, it was politically wide open as local elections had not been held in nearly a century.
Into this void, up stepped Marion Barry, the perpetual “situationalist,” and the rest is history.
Of course, “Dream City” isn’t the only book on the District — far from it — nor is it the only one you should read. (The D.C. Public Library has compiled a list of 50 must-reads.) In no particular order, here’s a few others we’d suggest:
[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at DCist.com.]