Vermont Ave and U Street

Everyone is writing about the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Everyone but me.

Today we resumed our Civil Rights tour by heading for Washington DC. In October, we had planned to visit Washington, but we changed our plans when the government shutdown coincided with our planned visit. One of the lesser-known museums in DC is the African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum. We paid it a visit today.

I’m not saying that the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement are synonymous. But, I want to gain a deeper understanding of the African-American context, and this seemed like a good place to look for that. This museum is primarily about the service of African-American soldiers in the Civil War.

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Did you know that in the early days of the Civil War (and in other American wars as well), certain politicians stood in the way of African-Americans serving as soldiers? It’s true! African-Americans wanted to volunteer to serve, and they were turned away. Until they were more desperately needed, of course. Did you know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only applied to slaves in states that were in “rebellion?” It’s true. In other words, slaves in states such as Maryland, which did not secede, were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The US President did not have the authority to do something like that. It took the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery throughout the nation.

The African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum is located on Vermont Avenue, near U Street. The “Greater U Street” area of Washington was one of those neighborhood communities of affluent African-Americans during the time of segregation. We have learned about neighborhoods like this in virtually every major city that we’ve visited. If there were such a thing as time travel, I would love to visit some of those neighborhoods before they began to disappear.

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