U Street Oral History Project now online

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

U Street Oral History Project now online

Interviews tell the story of DC's cultural corridor

Now online: our U Street Oral History Project, which gathers first-hand accounts of the historic U Street Corridor neighborhood from its heyday as “Black Broadway” in the 1920s and 1930s through the riots that devastated the area following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the present renewal.

The DC Public Library Special Collections project began in spring 2014 with oral historian Kelly Navies conducting interviews with long-time DC residents who were active in the music scenes for which U St was best known. The interviews include first-hand accounts of the entertainment scene, including discussions of artists, venues, and radio stations, as well as racial segregation, the civil rights movement, the 1968 riots, and the changing identity of the U Street neighborhood. To date, fourteen interviews have taken place. The audio recordings are made available here, along an index for each and transcripts for two of the interviews. Interviews will continue to be gathered as part of this ongoing initiative as time and opportunity allow.

The U Street Oral History Project and more oral histories documenting the people, neighborhoods, and communities of the district can be found at Dig DC, your portal to digital materials from DCPL Special Collections.  All of the library's oral history holdings on oral cassette have been digitized and are being added to the website as they are cataloged.

Photo of a crowd at the Howard Theater, 1970s, from the DC Public Library Special Collections' DC Historic Preservation Division Photograph Collection.