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Combating the Legacy of Segregation in the Nation's Capital []


By Peace Gwam and Mychal Cohen, Urban Institute, September 2021

Washington, DC, has experienced population and economic booms over the past two decades, but the benefits of this growth have not been equitable for long-term Black residents, who created the culture that formed the base for this revival. These residents, who remained in the city after decades of economic disinvestment, are now being displaced in part because of economic-development policies intended to restore the city’s tax base that have in practice intensified displacement and segregation in the city.

The lingering effects of explicit segregation, federal and city policies that have disinvested from majority-Black neighborhoods, and development oriented toward wealthy residents have excluded Black people from the city’s economic resurgence and from opportunities to build intergenerational wealth. Unless we begin creating policy that builds equity for Black people and dismantles these exclusionary policies and practices, DC will continue to limit the opportunities available to its Black residents.

To better understand the policies that segregated Washington, DC, and how to combat them, we explored the dynamics of segregation in the city with three DC-based changemakers: George Derek Musgrove, historian and coauthor of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital; Stephanie Sneed, director of the Fund for Black-Led Change at the Meyer Foundation; and Vaughn Perry, director of equity for Building Bridges Across the River’s 11th Street Bridge Park project.

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