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date: 02 April 2020

Washington, D.C.locked

Capital of the United States and the only major city whose citizens—the majority of whom are black—lack the authority to govern fully their own affairs.
  • Peter Glenshaw


Established in 1790 under the direction of President George Washington and named in his honor, Washington, D.C., was created to meet the constitutional mandate for the establishment of a federal district. (Washington originally intended the city's name to be “District of Columbia” in honor of Christopher Columbus.) Established as a unique entity, separate from states, Washington, D.C., ironically has been hampered by its nether position, both in terms of race and voting rights. Located between Maryland, a state in the Union, and Virginia, which joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861–1865), Washington has struggled throughout much of its existence to be a city for both the nation and local residents.

In 1800 the city's population of 14,103 persons comprised 10,066 whites, 783 free blacks, and 3,244 slaves. Designed principally by the French architect Pierre L'Enfant the survey for the city was completed in part ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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