Strivers' Section was historically an enclave of upper-middle-class African Americans, often community leaders, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It takes its name from a turn-of-the-century writer who described the district as "the Striver's section, a community of Negro aristocracy." The name echoes that of a New York City historic neighborhood of black professionals: Strivers' Row in Harlem.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Striver's Section Historic District is roughly bounded by Swann Street NW on the south, Florida Avenue NW on the north and west, the 16th Street Historic District on the east, and 19th Street on the west.
The area was envisioned as part of the capital city by Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 plan; by 1852, plats were drawn up for 11 squares subdivided by streets. But the rural landscape remained largely uninhabited until the latter half of the century. Development began in the 1870s, encouraged by a north-south streetcar line along nearby 14th Street, and accelerated from about 1890 to 1910. Early residents including working-class people and professionals, African-Americans and whites. But the area became most strongly identified with the African-American elites who were attracted by public transit and the nearby Howard University.
Among its most notable residents was Frederick Douglass, runaway slave, abolitionist, orator, writer and civil servant. Douglass built the southern three buildings of a five-house, Second Empire-style row at 2000-2008 17th Street in 1875-76. Douglass' son inherited the houses and lived at 2002 from 1877 until his death in 1908.
Other notable residents have included:
- Calvin Brent, the late-19th-century architect lived on V Street.
- James C. Dacy, editor, realtor and D.C. Recorder of Deeds in 1904-10, also lived in the area.
- James E. Storum, the educator and entrepreneur who founded the Capital Savings Bank, the first African-American-owned banking institution in the nation's capital, lived at 2004 17th Street.
Prominent figures who lived within a few blocks of the Historic District boundaries include:
- Langston Hughes (1902-1967), Harlem Renaissance poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright, lived at 1749 S Street, NW.
- Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950), dean of Howard University's law school, lived at 1744 S Street, NW.
- Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966), author and poet of the Harlem Renaissance, lived at 1461 S Street, NW.
Today, the Strivers' Section is still largely occupied by the Edwardian residences that have populated the area since its initial development, along with some apartment and condominium buildings and a few small businesses. The area includes some 430 buildings constructed between 1875 and 1946. It is the home of the national headquarters (1930 17th Street, NW) of Jack and Jill of America, which seeks to help children, especially African-American children, obtain cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills, and form social networks.
- ↑ National Register of Historic Places: Strivers' Section Historic District
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 D.C. Office of Planning: Brochure: Strivers' Section Historic District, retrieved 24 June 2008.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cultural Tourism DC's African American Heritage Trail Database: Neighborhood: Dupont Circle and Strivers' Section