Midcity at the Crossroads
Shaw Heritage Trail
This neighborhood has always been "a place between places," where races and classes bumped and mingled as they got a foothold on the city. It has attracted the powerful seeking city conveniences as well as immigrants and migrants just starting out. By 1900 the Shaw neighborhood lay just north of the downtown federal offices and white businesses, and south of the African-American-dominated U Street commercial corridor and Howard University.
Longstanding local businesses took root here, and leaders flourished: Carter G. Woodson, Langston Hughes, John Wesley Powell, B. F. Saul, and A. Philip Randolph. The nation’s finest “colored” schools were here too. By the 1930s the area was known as Midcity or Shaw (for Shaw Junior High School).
Over time the shops of Seventh and Ninth streets became a bargain-rate alternative to downtown’s fancy department stores. There were juke joints, Irish saloons, storefront evangelists, delicatessens, and dozens of schools and houses of worship. As the city expanded, Shaw’s older housing became more affordable but crowded. In 1966 planners worked with local church leaders to create the Shaw School Urban Renewal District and improve conditions. Then in 1968, destructive riots followed the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Years later the community has succeeded in creating the mix of new and old that you’ll experience along Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail.
Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing highlights of the 17 trail markers, is available in English and Spanish at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.