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Service Alert

The Anacostia Library will be closed from Monday, July 22 - Sunday, Aug. 4 for a scheduled facilities project. Learn more on the Anacostia Library page.

Celebrating 50 Years of the D.C. Home Rule Act of 1973

Celebrate 50 Years of Home Rule during Civic Learning Week at DC Public Library! Civic Learning Week (March 11-15) is hosted annually by iCivics and seeks to highlight the importance of civic education in sustaining and strengthening constitutional democracy in the United States. Here in D.C., Civic Learning Week has a special importance. That is because the right to vote wasn't always a right for D.C. residents. From 1874 - 1973, D.C.'s right to self-govern, otherwise known as Home Rule, was removed by Congress. It wasn't until 1974 that D.C. was able to show up to the polls to vote for Mayor and D.C. Council. 

2024 is another big election year and exercising your right to vote is not only an opportunity to make your voice heard, it is also an opportunity to honor the incredible advocates who fought for this right. Throughout the week you are invited to check out resources about Home Rule, learn about ways you can be more involved in your community, visit your neighborhood library for events and more.

Upcoming Events

Your Voice Your Vote

Voter Registration Drive | Mar.6-21, 3 p.m. | Various locations

The DC Board of Elections will be on site to register residents to vote, recruit election workers, and answer any questions you have about the 2024 election.

Dancing in the Darkness

Dancing in the Darkness with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III | Thursday, Mar. 7, 7 p.m. | MLK Library

Join us for our kick-off event for Civic Learning Week with a lecture by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III. Using his book, Dancing in the Darkness, Dr. Moss will discuss the significant events and experiences from Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood and youth that shaped his perspectives and propelled Dr. King to become a civil rights leader and social justice advocate. 

Marshall and John Lewis: Good Trouble movie posters

Heroes of the People Double Feature | Tuesday, Mar. 12, 3 p.m. | Bellevue/William O. Lockridge Library 

Commemorate Civic Learning Week witha double feature! The first movie, from 3 pm to 5 pm, is the feature film Marshall. It stars Chadwick Boseman as a young Thurgood Marshall as he works to win a landmark case. The second movie, from 5:20 pm to 7 pm, is the documentary John Lewis: Good Trouble. It spans 60 years of this legendary activist and lawmaker's life.

DC Government Agency Resource Fair | Thursday, Mar. 14, 3 - 7 p.m. | MLK Library

Stop by the Great Hall of the MLK Library for a DC Government Agency Resource Fair. Staff from various DC Government agencies, including ANC's, DC Board of Elections, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and more will be on-site to provide residents with information about their agency, their services & programs, and answer any questions you may have.

Hands Raised

Political Discussion Group: What Should Democracy Look Like? | Thursday, Mar. 14, 6:30 p.m. | Petworth Library

Join us for a special edition of the Political Discussion Group. We will talk about democracy, what it should look like, what it should do...and its limitations. Please bring a friendly and cooperative vibe to this event!

Story District

This is What Democracy Looks Like Storytelling Show | Thursday, Mar. 14, 7 p.m. | MLK Library

Join us for our signature Civic Learning Week event, "This is What Democracy Looks Like," a live storytelling show presented by Story District that will feature five true stories about democracy in action. Each story will delve into real-life situations and events that highlight the principles of democracy, its challenges, and the diverse ways people engage with it. The stories cover various topics such as grassroots movements, citizen activism, electoral processes, community organizing, and the power of collective action. This show aims to inspire and educate viewers about the different facets of democracy and the impact individuals can have on shaping their societies.

Civic Learning Week Check-List


Stay engaged in civic life all year round! Pick up your Civic Learning Week checklist at your neighborhood library between Mar. 11 - 15. Find all the resources you need to complete the list below:

  1. Check your Voter Registration on the DC Board of Elections website. Not registered? Registering to vote is easy to do online, or right at your neighborhood library!
  2. Mark the primary and general election dates on your calendar.
    1. Primary Election | Tuesday, June 4, 2024
    2. General Election | Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024
  3. Learn about D.C.'s Home Rule
  4. Attend an ANC meeting for your ANC or another community meeting.
  5. Attend a DC Public Library Civic Learning Week Event or visit Up From the People or We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC exhibitions at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
  6. Stop by your neighborhood library to share what democracy and home rule mean to you.
  7. Organize or join a neighborhood clean-up.
  8. Contact your DC Council Member or ANC Member about an issue you care about
  9. Volunteer at the library or sign up to volunteer for your community through Serve DC.
  10. Check out a book or an online resource about social justice or civic engagement. (See some of our favorites below!)

The History of Home Rule

Since the earliest days of our nation, residents of the capital city have fought for the right to self-government, also known as home rule. The Constitution gives Congress, not D.C. citizens, control over Washington, D.C. For most of the nineteenth century, Congress allowed D.C. a degree of freedom. Residents elected their own local government officials. Yet only white, male landowners had the right to vote. In 1867, however, Congress granted Black men the right to vote in D.C. elections. Following the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted Black men the right to vote across the country, D.C’s white leadership and Congress became fearful of Black Washingtonians’ growing political power. In 1874, Congress took D.C. Home Rule away. For decades to come, the city would be managed by three federally appointed Commissioners, and all decisions were ratified by Congress. 

Washingtonians fought unsuccessfully for home rule for decades. Between 1948 and 1964, five different bills were introduced and failed in Congress. By this time, civil rights leaders in D.C. saw home rule as central to the struggle for citizenship. After turning out by the thousands for the March on Washington to support Black voting rights across the country, they couldn't vote in their home city. In 1965, D.C. leaders wrote to their friend and ally, Dr. King, to recruit him for their cause. King spent three days in  D.C., meeting with community leaders and leading rallies in support of racial justice and D.C. Home Rule. New leaders—including Marion Barry, founder of the Free D.C. movement, Julius Hobson, and comedian/activist Dick Gregory—shook up the status quo and inspired citizens to protest D.C.’s status in many ways, from street protests to public hearings. 

To increase local control over D.C.’s affairs, in 1967 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Walter Washington as Mayor-Commissioner and a nine-member Council. D.C. became the first U.S. city with a Black chief executive. In 1968 Congress granted Washingtonians the right to vote for their Board of Education, the first local election in nearly a century. In 1971 the District of Columbia Delegate Act re-instituted a nonvoting Delegate to represent the nation’s capital in the House of Representatives. With support from civil rights allies including Coretta Scott KingWalter Fauntroy was elected and held the position for three decades. In 1973, Congress finally passed the Home Rule act. In 1974, D.C. elected its local government for the first time in more than 100 years. Walter E. Washington was elected Mayor, and longtime civil rights and anti-poverty activists, almost all of them Black, were elected to the D.C. Council.

Research and Learn About Home Rule and D.C. History

D.C. Last Colony: Voting Rights and Home Rule

Explore the history of voting rights here in the District in this DigDC collection featuring historic photos, political posters, pamphlets, sample ballots, political cartoons and more.

D.C. Wins Home Rule

Learn how leaders from the civil rights movement helped to win self-government in D.C. in this Google Arts & Culture selection from DC Public Library's permanent exhibition, "Up From the People."

Evening Star

Research local news and history in the long considered "hometown paper of record" for the nation's capital from 1852-1981. Search and browse scanned copies of every page of every issue of the Star. This valuable archive offers significant new research opportunities from the Antebellum Period to World War I to the start of the Korean War. Provided by Newsbank.

Black History Sites: Washington, DC

African Americans have been central to the culture, heritage and civic life of Washington, DC. This website records nearly 300 places associated with African American history and culture in the District of Columbia. These sites span the city's history from its creation in 1791, through the Civil War and Civil Rights eras to 1974—when DC gained Home Rule—and beyond.

Government Documents

The District of Columbia Public Library acts as a Federal Depository Library. Depository libraries serve the public every day by providing free access to a wealth of U.S. Government digital information products.

Register to Vote

As an official voter registration agency, District residents can visit any DC Public Library location and request to register to vote without applying for a new library card or being an existing customer.

Related Exhibitions

Up from the People

Explore Up from the People: Protest and Change in D.C., the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s permanent exhibit. It is located outside The People’s Archive on the Fourth Floor of the MLK Library, and is open during the library’s regular public hours.


We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist D.C.

Presented as part of a groundbreaking partnership between DC Public Library and the National Women’s History Museum, We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist D.C. will trace Black feminism in Washington, DC from the turn of the 20th century through the civil rights and Black Power movements to today.

Black and white image of women joining hands to lead the Mother's Day March, Washington, D.C., 1968