This year, realtor Flaxie Pinkett became the first black and the first woman to head the executive committee of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, which 15 years ago was the private preserve of city's powerful white business community. In January, Pinkett will become the Board of Trade's president.
But she sees few changes in relations between blacks and whites since the riots.
"If Martin Luther King was assassinated today, we would have the same kind of thing," she said. "I'm not at all sure that underneath the surface that all that has changed. Smart people in this town have gone along with the majority, but there is no greater love or respect."
She said she is acutely aware that "a precious few" have penetrated the city's business community.
"We have come a long way, but a lot of this is tokenism," she said of blacks' economic progress. "One or two get through. I'm not ready to say that the bars are down and the doors are open. . . . I don't think that's the case. I think very little has been done to really open up the gates and the doors for people based on ability."
Describing her election to head the Board of Trade, she said: "It's timely from their perspective to have a black do the job. I'm one of a number that could do the job, and it might mean a feather in their cap. Might mean more to them than to me. Expedient. It might move to better relations between business and the community, and it's worth giving it a chance."