Why: Other Lincoln memorials, civil warriors and Thurgood and the Supremes.
How Far: About 11 miles, or about an hour by car.
February is nearing an end, and so is Black History Month. Yet African American achievements deserve to be honored year-round. The District boasts landmarks often glossed over in history books and on whirlwind Washington tours. So, take it slow and soak up the city's lore.
If the Lincoln Memorial had a theme song, it might be "My Country, 'Tis of Thee": The lyrics appeared in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and Marian Anderson sang the tune in her historic free concert there in 1939. After the Daughters of the American Revolution barred the opera singer from Constitution Hall, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes cleared her Mall appearance, introducing her to the crowd by saying, "Genius draws no color line."
That line started blurring nearly 60 years earlier when escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist Frederick Douglass received a presidential appointment as recorder of deeds for the District. The current recorder's building near Judiciary Square houses seven New Deal-era murals showing "the contribution of the Negro to the American Nation." Painted scenes include Douglass lobbying Lincoln to recruit black soldiers and the resulting 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (which included Douglass's son Lewis) assaulting Confederate Fort Wagner.
"It was the celebrity sons regiment," says Hari Jones, assistant director of the African American Civil War Museum on U Street NW. "In today's world, Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's sons would be in it." (For a primer on the 54th, rent the 1989 war flick "Glory.") Two blocks from the museum, the African American Civil War Memorial recognizes the more than 200,000 black Union soldiers who fought hard for their freedom.
Thurgood Marshall also was a fighter, but he wielded a different kind of weapon. He and the NAACP legal team planned their attack on the "separate but equal" doctrine at the 12th Street YMCA in Northwest Washington. Before facing the U.S. Supreme Court -- and eventually joining it -- the Marylander and Howard University alum legally forced integration at the University of Maryland School of Law, which had denied him admission because of race.
Douglass also threw an early punch at Jim Crow when he moved into his third and final D.C. home, breaking Anacostia's "whites only" rule. At Cedar Hill, Douglass, who had taught himself how to read as a slave on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in Baltimore, wrapped up his third autobiography. You can find his book at any local library, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at Ninth and G streets NW.
-- Scott Elder