Back when downtown Washington was for white people, entire black business areas thrived. The most famous was the U Street entertainment district in Northwest. Known as the Black Broadway, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald performed there even after they had attracted nationwide attention. Today, U Street, site of the historic Lincoln Theatre and Bohemian Caverns jazz club, is at the heart of the city’s liveliest nightlife scene — and now open to all.
Listed below is a sampling of African American Washington. Admission is free unless noted. But there’s much more: In 2000, Cultural Tourism DC surveyed the city to create an inventory of more than 200 sites. CTDC’s constantly updated Web site offers detailed and an often surprising list of suggestions; visit www.culturaltourismdc.org.
African American Civil War
Memorial and Museum
Famous for: Challenging America’s traditional memory of African Americans during the Civil War as slaves awaiting rescue, the museum uses documents and photographs to tell the story of how African Americans fought to maintain the Union.
And there’s more: From 2- 4 p.m. on Sundays this summer, the museum hosts the Duke Ellington Sunday Jazz Series, featuring the HR-57 All Stars. In September, when the jazz series is over, a 10-week gospel series will begin.
Getting there: 1925 Vermont Ave. NW; 202-667-2667; afroamcivilwar.org. Open 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, until 4 p.m. Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays.
Alain Locke Residence
Famous for: Locke was the first black Rhodes Scholar from the United States. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University and taught at Howard University for more than 40 years.
And there’s more: In 1925, Locke was the editor of “The New Negro,” an anthology of art, prose and poetry.
Getting there: The site, at 1326 R St. NW, is marked with a plaque; the home is privately owned and not open to the public.
Alexandria Black History Museum
Famous for: The museum is focused on preserving and celebrating local and regional African American history. There is also a reading room and nine-acre heritage park.
And there’s more: Through Dec. 31, you can see the exhibit “In Black and White: Photography by Nina Tisara and Peggy Fleming,” an exploration of the culture, worship and social lives of African Americans in Alexandria.