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Retropolis

A city destroyed by riots, then and now

In 1968, when riots erupted in Washington neighborhoods after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, The Washington Post sent photographers into the mayhem. In images, they captured a city angry and burning.

What unfolded fundamentally transformed the Washington we know today. Neighborhoods that once thrived were crippled. Some recovered quicker than others. Some still haven’t.

For the riot’s 50th anniversary, current Post photographers revisited the sites their colleagues documented decades ago. This is what they found.

7th and Q St. NW, 1968

Margaret Thomas/The Washington Post

7th and Q St. NW, 2018

Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post

14th and H St. NE, 1968

Matthew Lewis/The Washington Post

14th and H St. NE, 2018

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

8th and H St. NE, 1968

Matthew Lewis/The Washington Post

8th and H St. NE, 2018

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

14th and Kenyon St. NW, 1968

Jim McNamara/The Washington Post

14th and Kenyon St. NW, 2018

Nick Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post

5th and H St. NE, 1968

Stephen Northup/The Washington Post

5th and H St. NE, 2018

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

11th and H St. NE, 1968

Matthew Lewis/The Washington Post

11th and H St. NE, 2018

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Florida and Georgia Ave. NW, 1968

UPI

Florida and Georgia Ave. NW, 2018

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

It took decades for Washington’s recovery to begin. Not until about 20 years ago, when the city committed to investing in revitalization, did the riot corridors most devastated half a century ago start to come alive again.

Luxury condos now stand where black-owned businesses once flourished. Expensive restaurants and bars draw people to streets that many once feared after dark. Newcomers to the city have trouble imagining Shaw, Columbia Heights and the H Street corridor as crime-plagued and abandoned. But those who lived through the riots haven't forgotten. Those wounds are still healing.