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Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital

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Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America's expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, c Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America's expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war, and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove also highlight the city's rich history of local activism as Washingtonians of all races have struggled to make their voices heard in an undemocratic city where residents lack full political rights. Tracing D.C.'s massive transformations--from a sparsely inhabited plantation society into a diverse metropolis, from a center of the slave trade to the nation's first black-majority city, from Chocolate City to Latte City--Asch and Musgrove offer an engaging narrative peppered with unforgettable characters, a history of deep racial division but also one of hope, resilience, and interracial cooperation.


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Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America's expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, c Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation's capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America's expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war, and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove also highlight the city's rich history of local activism as Washingtonians of all races have struggled to make their voices heard in an undemocratic city where residents lack full political rights. Tracing D.C.'s massive transformations--from a sparsely inhabited plantation society into a diverse metropolis, from a center of the slave trade to the nation's first black-majority city, from Chocolate City to Latte City--Asch and Musgrove offer an engaging narrative peppered with unforgettable characters, a history of deep racial division but also one of hope, resilience, and interracial cooperation.

30 review for Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth A

    As a recent DC resident, Chocolate City gave me much greater insights to the cities' neighborhoods and how they came to be. Also gave me background on names and historical markers I see around town. Although the Book's length made it a challenge, it marched through history without a lot of wasted words or extraneous stories. Although it's the story of DC and its unique role as the federal city, it also tells the story of many cities and the history of shifting racial dynamics. As a recent DC resident, Chocolate City gave me much greater insights to the cities' neighborhoods and how they came to be. Also gave me background on names and historical markers I see around town. Although the Book's length made it a challenge, it marched through history without a lot of wasted words or extraneous stories. Although it's the story of DC and its unique role as the federal city, it also tells the story of many cities and the history of shifting racial dynamics.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    As the title indicates, this book provides a definitive account of the District of Columbia’s history in terms of the advances and setbacks faced by its inhabitants in attaining racial and democratic equality. Beyond describing the city’s racial dimensions, however, Asch and Musgrove also illuminated how economic conflicts affected the city. In the early-19th Century, the roots of the retrocession movement involved economically disaffected white Georgetown and Alexandria residents, worried as d As the title indicates, this book provides a definitive account of the District of Columbia’s history in terms of the advances and setbacks faced by its inhabitants in attaining racial and democratic equality. Beyond describing the city’s racial dimensions, however, Asch and Musgrove also illuminated how economic conflicts affected the city. In the early-19th Century, the roots of the retrocession movement involved economically disaffected white Georgetown and Alexandria residents, worried as development centered around the growth of the Washington City Federal government. Later, the role of Alexandria as a slave port, in addition to the desire for voting rights, led white residents to petition and obtain retrocession to Virginia in 1846. Across the river, economic differences between the elite black residents of Washington such as Frederick Douglass, and the growing number of newly-freed slaves forming the working class (led by “Colonel Carson”) would characterize the city’s Reconstruction Era history. The city’s limited industrial presence minimized the number of working class white residents who would settle in the city, with those who lived in Southeast largerly dissipating in the 1960s as military shops closed and school desegregation was met with cultural strife. The book describes how political leaders alternatively helped and harmed the District’s democratic aspirations. Mayor Sayles Bowen, a Marion Barry-like figure, but 100 years earlier and white, would integrate the local government and employ black workers in city works projects in the late 1860s. In the next decade, black voting rights were set back when Alexander Shepherd’s ‘territorial government’ plan ended locally-elected positions and congressional findings of the city’s graft led to the abolition of the territorial government as well in 1874. These days, Federal government decisions governing local District matters tend to be cast as negative interference, but the book pointed out the times when historically it has been beneficial. One of the earliest Congressional uses of the District as a pawn in political power struggles came on the issue of slavery in the 1830s, with abolitionists publicizing the abysmal slave trading pens placed in the capital. Later, Lincoln’s early emancipation of slaves within the District significantly advanced racial equality and would help increase the black population. A century later, the influence of the Federal government would largely be the reverse, with delegate Walter Fauntroy needing to unseat a segregationist congressmen from South Carolina in order to be able to advance Home Rule legislation in the early 1970s. Chocolate City contained a number of insights into Washington history that were new to me, and in its scope as well as some of its more amusing anecdotes (the barber of U Street's encounter with a policeman at a playground) this was probably the most enjoyable book on D.C. that I have ever read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zainab

    Thanks to the random stranger online who needed me to read it for him (God bless you Juny). It was the first book I read on the history and politics of race in Washington DC. Or frankly, simply on race. Reflects quite brilliantly with boring historical and very academic undertones on how Jim Crow was introduced cautiously after the First Reconstruction post Civil War in the Federal Capital, and how it developed into vivid segregation from DC to all over the USA, the internalization of the segrega Thanks to the random stranger online who needed me to read it for him (God bless you Juny). It was the first book I read on the history and politics of race in Washington DC. Or frankly, simply on race. Reflects quite brilliantly with boring historical and very academic undertones on how Jim Crow was introduced cautiously after the First Reconstruction post Civil War in the Federal Capital, and how it developed into vivid segregation from DC to all over the USA, the internalization of the segregationist approach to identity among local Black leaders, lawyers, academicians, and just regular not-so-political folks, and its eventual consequences on the socio-economic situation of the Black Washingtonians through segregated schools, residential societies, public places, and justice system alike. Damn, it's one long sentence. What else? The transformation to the integrationist approach post-Civil Rights Movement. Mayoral politics. Full Black versus Half-Black. And then no Black at all. What is refreshing here is that there's nothing white about the book, except, of course, Chris Myers Asch himself. But I'll give him that. Time spent well. Money earned. What else do you need?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Healey Sutton

    The history of DC is even more fascinating than I had realized, and this book really covers it all. I was extremely impressed with the thoroughness; that said the level of detail and length of time it covered made it a bit of a slog to get through at times. But, no stars removed because I wouldn’t have wanted them to cut any corners. As a permanent DC transplant, I love this city and really make an effort to respect its history and people. This book will help a lot with that effort- I will defini The history of DC is even more fascinating than I had realized, and this book really covers it all. I was extremely impressed with the thoroughness; that said the level of detail and length of time it covered made it a bit of a slog to get through at times. But, no stars removed because I wouldn’t have wanted them to cut any corners. As a permanent DC transplant, I love this city and really make an effort to respect its history and people. This book will help a lot with that effort- I will definitely see a lot of things in a whole new light.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Wow. If you have any interest in nonfiction or history books, this is such a great read, especially if you’ve lived for some amount of time in the DMV. This book is only the tip of the iceberg, but enough to give me (or someone like me lacking DC’s basic historical context) a better sense of what gentrification means here, and how local history is pretty much indivisible from race and civil rights. A much needed reorientation leaving me to reconsider our neighborhoods, establishments, and local Wow. If you have any interest in nonfiction or history books, this is such a great read, especially if you’ve lived for some amount of time in the DMV. This book is only the tip of the iceberg, but enough to give me (or someone like me lacking DC’s basic historical context) a better sense of what gentrification means here, and how local history is pretty much indivisible from race and civil rights. A much needed reorientation leaving me to reconsider our neighborhoods, establishments, and local politics through a new lens. Very much recommend!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Definitely a must-read for anyone living in DC or planning to live in DC. Very impressed by how well-researched this book was (I would say a sixth of the book is Works Cited!). It stretches from pre-European settlement up to present day. It was great to spot landmarks referenced in my own neighborhood. Would very much recommend

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    Authors Chris Asch and George Musgrove end their book on the history of race and democracy in Washington, DC, by saying that their purpose remains to deepen “love for the city and inspire readers to engage in thoughtful conversation about race and democracy.” This thorough, well-documented history of the very unique and intriguing US capital city that is also a microcosm of race and democracy in our country does just that. Laying foundations in the colonial developments in and around where Washin Authors Chris Asch and George Musgrove end their book on the history of race and democracy in Washington, DC, by saying that their purpose remains to deepen “love for the city and inspire readers to engage in thoughtful conversation about race and democracy.” This thorough, well-documented history of the very unique and intriguing US capital city that is also a microcosm of race and democracy in our country does just that. Laying foundations in the colonial developments in and around where Washington would develop, the book looks at how the city becomes a dynamic magnet for both white and black populations in the antebellum period, giving testimony for how the momentous change that emancipation brought energized and empowered African Americans on the decade following the end of the American Civil War. This promising start is just as quickly quenched when DC voters are disenfranchised in 1874, with DC residents having opportunity to vote taken away until just shy of 100 years later. Under Congressional authority, DC residents had no vote for mayor, city council and other governing bodies until 1972. Amazing! And poignantly because DC became a majority African American city following the Civil War period. Even so, through unjust trials of disenfranchisement, Jim Crow segregation, redlining, poverty and unfair wage and labor practices, African Americans were able to find not-too-infrequent moments of courage and self-empowerment in order to coax their stamp on the city with the promise that they would create possibilities for a more just and equitable city, organized into neighborhoods of familiarity that show a way to a diverse and creative future. Asch and Musgrove detail not only such highlights, but also the diversity of an eventual multicultural city, albeit one that struggles with systems of white privilege and supremacy. What I noticed in reading this history, is how close the past is to the present. Gentrification and developments that prosper the city as a national treasure and attraction come with a high price tag for poorer citizens, destroying the familiarity of neighbors and communities. Political leadership within the city continues to show high promise because of the giftedness of its mayors, council members and multifaceted community leaders and organizers. It was instructive to read of the high minded purpose of Marion Barry and of his bonds especially, but not by any means exclusively, with his poorer African American base. The helpfulness and courage of church leaders, grassroots, academic and business leaders is also well-documented and inspiring. Of course, uniquely, all of this is happening within the population if the city, while Congress and Presidents use DC as a political foil for constituencies far removed from the neighborhoods and citizens of Washington. As a pastor and one deeply interested in the District of Columbia, I highly recommend this book to my colleagues in church ministry as we seek the welfare of the city where we find ourselves.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This is an excellent history of Washington DC, viewed through the lens of race. The authors argue that race explains much of the city's history: “Race, above and beyond other factors (including class, region, politics, and religion), has proven to be the most significant explanation for social, economic, and political divisions in the city. Race may be a social and historical construction with little basis in biology, but it is also a powerful lived reality that has influenced how (and where) Was This is an excellent history of Washington DC, viewed through the lens of race. The authors argue that race explains much of the city's history: “Race, above and beyond other factors (including class, region, politics, and religion), has proven to be the most significant explanation for social, economic, and political divisions in the city. Race may be a social and historical construction with little basis in biology, but it is also a powerful lived reality that has influenced how (and where) Washingtonians of all races have lived, worked, voted, and interacted.” The authors make a convincing case for this approach to Washington's history as they explore themes about “the enduring significance of race and the shifting dynamics of racial power, the debilitating effect of D.C.’s undemocratic political status on race relations in the city, and the catalyzing and demoralizing effect of being the nation’s capital on local racial struggles.” As a relatively recent transplant to the Washington DC metro area, I found the book to be fascinating and educational. It is thorough, detailed, and well-researched. Although it's long and sometimes dense, it is still very readable. I recommend Chocolate City to anyone who wants to know more about the history of Washington DC, the history of urban America, or the history of race in the United States.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This was such a good and important read. Especially as the House voted for the first time to approve DC statehood and as Black Lives Matter protests continue, but really for any time. The book was so well-grounded in DC as a place and in its people - I frequently opened up a map on my phone to look at where the landmarks they referenced were or are. And I learned so much about the particular history of race, racism, and Blackness in DC.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julia Romano (she/her)

    One of the most informative, well-written, and well-researched history books I have read in a long time. I am forever impressed by how deftly the authors were able to cover a long span of time/many different historical eras, AND different aspects of society in relation to race (local politics, national politics, social classes, enslavement, immigration, business, etc.). I have walked away better understanding the city I live in, and feeling like I know even less about the world than I did when I One of the most informative, well-written, and well-researched history books I have read in a long time. I am forever impressed by how deftly the authors were able to cover a long span of time/many different historical eras, AND different aspects of society in relation to race (local politics, national politics, social classes, enslavement, immigration, business, etc.). I have walked away better understanding the city I live in, and feeling like I know even less about the world than I did when I began reading it--truly the sign of a great book. It was worth the investment in time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Will Hamlin

    All my dc goodreads friends need to read this book

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chana

    Fascinating history of my city that I sadly didn’t know fully before. Must read! Densely written but good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sanjida

    I'm possibly biased because I live 3 miles from the DC border, but I found this captivating and interesting and informative throughout. In fact, it changed my entire attitude to the District. I may even support statehood over retrocession now 😛. I'm possibly biased because I live 3 miles from the DC border, but I found this captivating and interesting and informative throughout. In fact, it changed my entire attitude to the District. I may even support statehood over retrocession now 😛.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lemon

    A really good and detailed social and political history of Washington, DC. Although formally a history of race in the District, it necessarily ends up covering just about everything else along the way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Nadal

    This book was very well-written and very thorough. It's a great read for people interested in both DC history and American history! This book was very well-written and very thorough. It's a great read for people interested in both DC history and American history!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo

    If you walk the streets of Berlin, in front a several buildings, you'll find little plaques in the ground. These plaques mark the spots around the city where a person or family were forcibly removed from their home only to die or be killed in prisons, labor camps or death camps. They not only are constant reminders of the atrocities that occurred under the German government during the 1930s and 1940s, they also make the point that history is not only the movement of armies or the decisions of le If you walk the streets of Berlin, in front a several buildings, you'll find little plaques in the ground. These plaques mark the spots around the city where a person or family were forcibly removed from their home only to die or be killed in prisons, labor camps or death camps. They not only are constant reminders of the atrocities that occurred under the German government during the 1930s and 1940s, they also make the point that history is not only the movement of armies or the decisions of leaders but the lives of ordinary people swept by extraordinary events. Instead of the schmaltz and pomp that wilts every other travelogue of DC, with it's emphasis on the homes of wealthy, white families and the quirkiness of those wacky federal officials, here we get the collective story of a city teeming with huddled masses and tired poor; a city of people trying to find their way alongside an entire new nation. This intricately researched work also reminds readers that the history of Washington is a history of displacement. It started with the indigenous Anacostans, who vanished from the historical record after migrating towards Pennsylvania. It continued with the escaped slaves who came into the city in droves after Lincoln abolished slavery in DC in 1862. What is now Southwest DC and the stretch of the National Mall, once housed entire communities of black families, Jewish residents and Irish and Chinese immigrants. To make way for a plan to beautify the city, every one of these 23,000 residents were forced from their homes. Restricted racial covenants solidified the racial makeup of entire neighborhoods, creating Chinatown, Jewish Connecticut Avenue and predominantly black Southeast. And it is the relentless pursuit of creating the perception of safe and secure neighborhoods that drive the movements of black residents throughout the history of the city. From the use of eminent domain to entirely remove the black neighborhood of Ft. Reno to the constant development and inflating cost of living that further marginalize those without generational wealth. In a city full of historical buildings and sites, there should be reminders of the smaller victories and defeats that mark this cityscape. The first school for “colored girls” was built at 11th St. and New York Ave NW in 1851. Years before, a school for free blacks was created as the Bell School in Southeast. George Miller's Tavern on F St. NW housed slaves in it's upper floors, including Ann Williams, who jumped from an upper story window to reunite with her family and eventually win her freedom in court. There was also the William's Slave Pen on 9th St. and Indiana Ave SW. There was the 1835 Snow Riot, an attack against businesses owned by free blacks, on 6th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. The 1857 Liberty Market Riot, sparked by an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic mob that wreaked havoc in what is now Mt. Vernon Square. And the 1919 riot by a white mob assaulting the black neighborhood of Bloodfield, now in modern-day Navy Yard. Amid the grind of forced migrations, lies many moments for pride. Black Broadway on U St., with luminaries like Duke Ellington. The now established Latino community branching out of Mt. Pleasant. The foundation of Howard University and it's prideful and influential alumni. And the constant struggle to attain autonomy, recognition and empowerment, that led to Home Rule in 1978, when DC residents were given back the right to vote for their mayor and city council (it was taken away in 1873 after the successful lobbying by city elites that the representation of the bankrupted city shouldn't be left to the newly enfranchised black residents). The campaign for city residents, primarily black DC, to set their own agenda brought a rise in hope and engagement. This tide was started by many but one of it's chief proponents was Marion Barry. Barry would later become the perfect encapsulation of DC politics: feared and dismissed by upper-class blacks and the white residents of DC, only to be respected and fondly remembered by the rest of black DC. This cleavage of political consensus would linger for every election and city initiative ever since. And with the traditionally black majority of DC dwindling (reflected in the title of this incredible book), there might be a fear that the thoughts and beliefs of this community may be pushed aside for the luxury condos and the mixed-use developments of the future. Chocolate City is not only the definitive history of the city of Washington, D.C., but a perfect reminder that the triumphs and tragedies of communities are what ultimately make up a history of a living, breathing city.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan Grodsky

    Written by Chris Asch, a native Washingtonian like me, and George Musgrove, a Baltimorean. Deeply researched and engagingly written. The authors enliven what could have been a dry recitation by describing particular lives that are emblematic of a period or movement. My favorite of these stories concerned Annie Stein, who worked with the majestic Mary Terrell Church to end segregation. Because Annie, Jewish like me, was also a resident of Trenton Terrace! Did my parents know her? The authors are Written by Chris Asch, a native Washingtonian like me, and George Musgrove, a Baltimorean. Deeply researched and engagingly written. The authors enliven what could have been a dry recitation by describing particular lives that are emblematic of a period or movement. My favorite of these stories concerned Annie Stein, who worked with the majestic Mary Terrell Church to end segregation. Because Annie, Jewish like me, was also a resident of Trenton Terrace! Did my parents know her? The authors are even handed in their treatment of Marion Barry, Washington’s top candidate for the “tragically flawed hero” award. The publisher’s subtitle is accurate, but i would have substituted this one: “How racism makes you stupid”. Because, for sure, racism has been behind many of the self destructive decisions and attitudes that litter DC history. Such as: —Trading, in 1868, a democratically elected mayor for a board of governors composed of members of Congress. —Sticking with that form of government for almost a century. Because it was better to be Congress’s testing ground for hair-brained ideas than extend suffrage to blacks. —Electing a drug-addled addict to represent you on the city council. There are a few oddities (his name is Pierre L’Enfant, not Peter) but MANY wonderful insights and stories. Here are a few: —The original Washingtonians were the Nacostine Indians, who lived at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. They traded with the Powhatan tribe in Virginia. —The Anacostia was navigable as far as Bladensburg until overfarming of tobacco exhausted the soil, which washed into the river and silted it up. It was not always a sewer. —The first black prez of Howard was appointed in 1935. The school was about 70 years old by then. —Reconstruction was a time of hope and progress for blacks. So many gains were rescinded in the following years. —Laundry was a good biz in Washington, a white collar town. —DC lacked the immigrant communities of other cities because it lacked the factory employment that attracted them. —Despite my claim (true in the 1970s) that 16 St divided black and white DC, there were black communities northeast of Dupont Circle (around 19th and S) and in the area between Connecticut and the core of Adams Morgan. —In the 1950s, there was progress on desegregation because of the Cold War: Soviet “propagandists” portrayed segregation and discrimination, and visiting dignitaries of color were shocked when subjected to segregation. —However, progress didn’t address economic matters because activists were afraid of being called communists. —Congress Heights remained blue collar white until the mid-1960s. Around then, two employment centers (a factory and Bolling AFB) declined and the white population decamped to PG and Calvert counties. —Affordable housing has been an issue in DC darn near forever. The authors don’t mention the building height limit as a factor, though I’ve often heard that restriction blamed. —The book mentions Trenton Terrace, my home from ages 1-3, as a complex that was mostly Jewish and mostly liberal. —My family was, in 1955, part of that white flight to the suburbs. My parents bought in Montgomery County, home of excellent schools for their cherished children. —I’ve long been aware that DC struggles financially because so much of the land is not subject to real estate taxes. The book gave the number: 42 percent of the land is tax-exempt. It’s owned by the federal government, or a church, or a school, or a non-profit, or an embassy. Stunningly large proportion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex Herder

    As a lifelong and native-born Washingtonian, I am so thankful to this book for reintroducing my city to me. I must have highlighted at least 20% of this thorough and fascinating history, and I won't be able to relate even a small fraction of what I learned in this review, so I won't try. In short, race has been at the center of the Washington-region's story for a long time. That's probably true of everywhere in this country, but it may be more true of DC than it is anywhere else. Hell, the very As a lifelong and native-born Washingtonian, I am so thankful to this book for reintroducing my city to me. I must have highlighted at least 20% of this thorough and fascinating history, and I won't be able to relate even a small fraction of what I learned in this review, so I won't try. In short, race has been at the center of the Washington-region's story for a long time. That's probably true of everywhere in this country, but it may be more true of DC than it is anywhere else. Hell, the very location of the city was chosen as a political concession by the abolition-inclined northern states to make the capital pro-slavery by default in exchange for the federal assumption of state-held debt. At the time of it's founding, Maryland and Virginia together were home to over 55% of enslaved people and placing the capital between them was a deliberate choice to maintain slavery in our young country. From there, and perhaps because of that choice, race and the story of Black Americans has been at the core of the Washington story ever since. I happen to have read this during the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd, and the echoes of the past reverberated loudly in my mind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jihane B Bergaoui

    This should be required reading for every single American. It was a difficult and challenging book, not because it’s nearly 600 pgs long, but because it’s made me even more ashamed than I already was at how much of what passes for a history curriculum in our public schools is actually propaganda. The story of Washington is the story of the United States. It is beautiful, unique, complex, but it is also often tragic. It is the story of how racism has been embedded into the fabric of our society s This should be required reading for every single American. It was a difficult and challenging book, not because it’s nearly 600 pgs long, but because it’s made me even more ashamed than I already was at how much of what passes for a history curriculum in our public schools is actually propaganda. The story of Washington is the story of the United States. It is beautiful, unique, complex, but it is also often tragic. It is the story of how racism has been embedded into the fabric of our society since our country’s founding. It was shocking to read about how the capital of a nation founded on the principles of freedom and liberty was home to some of the largest slave markets in the country. Enslaved people were marched in shackles by the White House and the Capitol. And yet, despite decades of injustice, racial segregation, and policies meant to keep Black people poor, DC‘s story (and the story of the US) is also one of a people who have continued to demand for the expansion of the rights our Founders believed only belonged to White land-owning men. That is the real American exceptionalism. That each generation would fight so that more types of people would enjoy equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what makes us special. This book is full of 400 years of stories about the community organizers, advocates, educators, and revolutionaries who have been fighting for their rights and the soul of this nation. It is so detailed and well researched that it can only be described as a labor of love by its authors. If you would like to unlearn the propaganda you have been taught and learn objective and accurate American history, I highly recommend this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This is a tremendous work of research and writing, outlining 400 years of DC history from Native Americans to the ethnic mix that makes up the city today. Washington DC has faced the same racial issues and tension that other major cities have dealt with. But because of its status as the nation's capital, the city could not always deal with these issues as other cities dealth with them. For many years, there was no local government. Everything was determined by Congress. And when you have a racis This is a tremendous work of research and writing, outlining 400 years of DC history from Native Americans to the ethnic mix that makes up the city today. Washington DC has faced the same racial issues and tension that other major cities have dealt with. But because of its status as the nation's capital, the city could not always deal with these issues as other cities dealth with them. For many years, there was no local government. Everything was determined by Congress. And when you have a racist Senator from Mississippi chairing the committee that runs DC, as was the case in the 1930s, you can be pretty certain that the voices of the majority population will not be heard. I was tempted to knock my rating down a bit because the book could really use maps. It's a major impediment sometimes to understanding what's happening, but it is still an amazing book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    I was inclined to be suspicious of this book because of the enormity of the page count and the fact that some histories of DC tend to follow a predictable set of arguments about benign neglect, race etc. However, once I opened it I was captivated. The train of history starting back during the era of Native American tribes living and fishing along the Anacostia River and running all along the creation of the capitol and growth of this unique city - I was fascinated by the level of detail and easy I was inclined to be suspicious of this book because of the enormity of the page count and the fact that some histories of DC tend to follow a predictable set of arguments about benign neglect, race etc. However, once I opened it I was captivated. The train of history starting back during the era of Native American tribes living and fishing along the Anacostia River and running all along the creation of the capitol and growth of this unique city - I was fascinated by the level of detail and easy flow of writing. I found myself learning something new on every page. Personalities I'd heard of were explained in detail - like Mary Terrell. Former school buildings like Franklin are given context. Milestones like the paving of Penn Ave. is shown as a big public works effort. I think the book is honest about the flaws of this city's history and the fact that racism has been an undercurrent in governance since Day 1.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Krall

    Where Rothstein’s The Color of Law left me overwhelmed with data/statistics, Chocolate City was a bit more digestible and engaging - despite being over 600 pages. We are guided through four decades of what helped shape the nation’s capital as well as what the author calls a history of “racial sins”. This book also addressed a lot of questions I didn’t know I had about the city I call home. “Since the city’s inception, men and women of conscience have struggled to dismantle the systems of racial Where Rothstein’s The Color of Law left me overwhelmed with data/statistics, Chocolate City was a bit more digestible and engaging - despite being over 600 pages. We are guided through four decades of what helped shape the nation’s capital as well as what the author calls a history of “racial sins”. This book also addressed a lot of questions I didn’t know I had about the city I call home. “Since the city’s inception, men and women of conscience have struggled to dismantle the systems of racial inequality and mistrust that still haunt our nation. Theirs is not a story of blame and resignation, but of action and resilience. Of working to ensure that Washington’s tortured racial past must not be true of tomorrow.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tommy O'Keefe

    This sweeping history of Washington, DC relentlessly centers the racial tensions that have marked the history of this nation and it’s capitol city. It’s far and a way the most thorough, poignant, and engaging work on our city I’ve read to date. The book ends with the following appeal from the authors, an appeal I feel challenged and stirred by, an appeal that reminds me of why I moved into the city in the first place: “We hope that this book will inspire Washingtonians to take up the challenge o This sweeping history of Washington, DC relentlessly centers the racial tensions that have marked the history of this nation and it’s capitol city. It’s far and a way the most thorough, poignant, and engaging work on our city I’ve read to date. The book ends with the following appeal from the authors, an appeal I feel challenged and stirred by, an appeal that reminds me of why I moved into the city in the first place: “We hope that this book will inspire Washingtonians to take up the challenge of black and white abolitionists, of former slaves and Radical Republicans, of civil rights and home rule activists, of freeway protestors and cooperative organizers, to build a more just, egalitarian, and democratic nation’s capital.” Count me as one of the inspired.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I initially borrowed this book from the library but ended up purchasing a copy because I am definitely planning on coming back to it. This book is a must-read for anyone living in the District. It's incredibly well-researched and yet not dense. The book is heavy emotionally, so it took me a while to get through it. It changed how I look at DC. For example, Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, Mary Church Terrell, and Dunbar High School mean more to me now that I know the history. I couldn't recommend I initially borrowed this book from the library but ended up purchasing a copy because I am definitely planning on coming back to it. This book is a must-read for anyone living in the District. It's incredibly well-researched and yet not dense. The book is heavy emotionally, so it took me a while to get through it. It changed how I look at DC. For example, Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, Mary Church Terrell, and Dunbar High School mean more to me now that I know the history. I couldn't recommend this book enough!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Seth Johnson

    It’s a good time to read this book... ...whether you grew up in DC like I did or not. A sweeping review of 400 years of history in what became our nation’s capital, this book reminds me that even though good folks have been trying to achieve our highest ideals for hundreds of years on this little patch of land we still have a lot of work to do. We will have time and space for some national healing and progress again, I hope real soon. :-)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kait F.

    Required reading for DC transplants and any white person living in the capital city.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Recommend to anyone that wants to understand the history of DC through race, class, and democracy. The authors do a good job of intermingling regular people and historical figures to really capture the heart of DC.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nana

    What can you say about this book besides “wow”? It’s an impeccably researched look at the history of how race relations and democracy have shifted and been shunted throughout the history of Washington DC. The authors do a great job of maintaining the focus on these two closely interwoven topics - DC history is long and complicated, and it would be easy to get bogged down in details. However, despite this book’s 400+ page length, it stays remarkably focused. As a long time resident of the city I What can you say about this book besides “wow”? It’s an impeccably researched look at the history of how race relations and democracy have shifted and been shunted throughout the history of Washington DC. The authors do a great job of maintaining the focus on these two closely interwoven topics - DC history is long and complicated, and it would be easy to get bogged down in details. However, despite this book’s 400+ page length, it stays remarkably focused. As a long time resident of the city I learned so much from this and would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand DC and be part of making it better.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Levi

    I think this book is a must-read for anyone living in DC, especially if you (like me) are new in town. In addition to a fantastically readable and thoroughly researched history of a fascinating city, it’s a seething indictment of the racist congressional and local policies that have screwed over the city, especially its Black residents. It was particularly poignant to read this in the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol. Anyone who doesn’t understand why people are so adamant about DC b I think this book is a must-read for anyone living in DC, especially if you (like me) are new in town. In addition to a fantastically readable and thoroughly researched history of a fascinating city, it’s a seething indictment of the racist congressional and local policies that have screwed over the city, especially its Black residents. It was particularly poignant to read this in the aftermath of the insurrection at the Capitol. Anyone who doesn’t understand why people are so adamant about DC becoming a state should read this book. Don’t be deterred by the page count. This book is worth the time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Megan McCormick

    Wow, what a text. Every resident of DC, especially white residents, needs to read this. I will be processing the research in here for years to come.

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