On the day I completed James Monroe Elementary School on Columbia Road in June 1953, my family moved from the Howard University neighborhood that my father's family had lived in for three generations to 12th and Farragut Streets, NW. Our experience with our white neighbors and our new neighborhood suggests that there is a different story from the one-dimensional view D'Vera Cohn portrayed in "The Year the Whites Left the City" [front page, July 19].
Upon our arrival, our new neighbors welcomed us and offered their assistance as we settled into our first house after living in an apartment on Georgia Avenue, 22 blocks south of Farragut Street. I attended Banneker Junior High School on Euclid Street in my old neighborhood until Brown v. Board of Education required that I attend MacFarland Junior High on Iowa Avenue.
I will never forget arriving for the first day of class at Banneker in 1954 and being given a D.C. Transit school ticket to travel to MacFarland. This would be the first time that I would have a white teacher. Admittedly, the initial hostility toward me and the others who left Banneker for MacFarland was disheartening. Quickly, however, hostility gave way to common ground, and new friendships were forged with white students and teachers. With minor exceptions, our white classmates continued on to Roosevelt High School, though some went to Coolidge, as did some of my black friends.
Paul Wice was quite correct in his assessment of the basketball court as neutral ground where friends and legends were made. Hamilton Street playground's basketball court was such a place, where my MacFarland friendships with Jeff Cohen, Bob Levy, Richard Aranoff, Billie Rosansky, et al. extended.
No white flight fueled by "fear, peer pressure or bias" took place on Farragut Street. Our block maintained its integrity deep into the 1970s, and it was only the passing of the elderly that created for-sale signs. The Schnitmans, Breckharts and other white neighbors whose names have dimmed with time maintained their allegiance to the neighborhood and to all the neighbors.
The story of people of different backgrounds, including races, living together in supportive neighborhoods, sharing the successes of families and their losses is the other story of Washington. It is a story laced with humanity and the essential ingredients that create that sense of special place called community. It is a story that daily is written in countless neighborhoods and that bodes well for and is the future of our city.
HARRY G. ROBINSON III