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Caldwell House History

African Americans at the Caldwell House from 1805 to the Present

The Arts Club of Washington was finally integrated in 1983, under coercion from the D.C government under Marion Barry. The president of the club, Dudley Brown, inducted Met Opera tenor Todd Duncan, then 80 years old, into the club and took the paperwork to the D.C. courthouse to prove that the club was "integrated". As honorary member, he could not vote or hold office. The first Black person to apply for club membership did so in 1989. As of 2022, the minority representation at the club is 2%.

This study may be divided into several periods, links below:

--Slavery 1805 to 1865
--Reconstruction and thereafter: 1865 to 1916
--Arts Club of Washington during segregation : 1916 to 1964
-- Racism and Integration: 1964 to today.
--President Monroe and slaves at Caldwell House
--Background and Proposal for Solutions

--Mr. Damani Davis, Reference Archivist at NARA (National Archives and Records Administration), wrote this important essay: Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation's Capital: Using Federal Records to Explore the Lives of African American Ancestors


--African American historical records resources

--Census Slave Schedules Historical Background

--Records resources to help identify former slaves and slave owners

--District of Columbia Archives. (--review the strict guidelines for D.C. Archives genealogy research).

-- National Museum of African American History and Culture - Freedman Bureau Records. https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/initiatives/freedmens-bureau-records  

--Freedmen's Bureau Bank Records are also located on familysearch.org

DC History Center

Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library

--Civil War Confederate Slave Payroll Records Video describing the content, availability and how to research. These records are located in the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) catalog.

-- Is it possible that the owner or ancestors were in the military?  You may find military service records  or pension files online for USCT soldiers during the Civil War or other wars on Fold3.com. Some families have voluntarily scanned many USCT soldiers into the NARA catalog. You can search by name.

--Here is another useful location to look for or ask for support with African American research. It is an independent online group but they use our records substantially. International African American Museum-Center for Family Research. 

--NARA has DC court records relating to slavery that are not online. When NARA reopens, you may consider visiting NARA in D.C. to review those records. Or, email Archives1Reference@nara.gov with specific dockets, dates, or other information to see if the records are applicable to your research.

--The White House Historical Association has initiated a compelling overview of slavery in the White House and other Lafayette Square buildings. Lafayette Square, 4 blocks from Caldwell House, was the site of one of the busiest slave markets in the country. When importation of slaves from Africa was abolished, the heavy demand for labor in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas created slave markets throughout Washington, DC. Slavery in the President's Neighborhood

--Caldwell House resident President James Monroe (1811-1817) owned 250 slaves, and brought enslaved people with him to the White House. While governor of Virginia, James Monroe oversaw the execution of 28 enslaved people who planned to gain their freedom.
The Enslaved Households of President James Monroe

--The Octagon House, also blocks from Caldwell House, was owned by the Tayloe family, who owned 800 slaves that rotated from Octagon House to the Tayloe plantation in Virginia. An article about slavery at Octagon House is HERE


White House Historical Association Bibliography

Ball, Edward--Slaves in the Family Journalist Edward Ball investigates the history of his family as slave owners, going back to the mid 17th century

Berlin, Ira--Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America A seminal history of slavery in America, this book examines the complex social, political, economic and personal web of slavery from 1620 to 1865 from New England to Mississippi.

Johnson, Paul--African-American ChristianityThese essays offer a surprising summary of the complex development of religion among the enslaved in North America

Arnebeck, Bob--Slave Labor in the Capital In 1791, President George Washington appointed a commission to build the future capital of the nation. The commission found paying masters of faraway Maryland plantations sixty dollars a year for their slaves made it easier to keep wages low for free workers who flocked to the city. In 1798, half of the two hundred workers building the two most iconic Washington landmarks, the Capitol and the White House, were slaves.

The Arts Club of Washington during segregation : 1916 to 1964

One of the big Washington stories of the 20th Century is the emergence and dominance of Washingtonian Duke Ellington on the world stage. Historians argue that Duke was the most important musical figure of the century. And hence the question: why did the Arts Club of Washington miss this story? There is no ACW archival record of Duke's meteoric rise and reign from the early 1920's until his death in 1974. Were other Washington artists, writers, performers equally overlooked by the Arts Club of Washington? Musicians alone would include Chuck Brown, Shirley Horn, Van McCoy, Billy Taylor, Andrew White, Hazel Harrison, et al.

But the deeper picture is presented by Howard University Professor Alain Locke in "The New Negro, An Interpretation", (1925) the collection of essays by two dozen writers on the emergence of the modern African American, viewed as the clarion call for the Harlem Renaissance. These essays touch on every issue still present today, and foretell much of what has taken place in the arts, an optimistic view of the depth and potential of the Black artist, writer, and cultural force.

"Modern Negro Art", (1943) by Howard Professor James A. Porter offers an elaborate study of African American art and artists from the 18th century to modern times. Howard University was indeed the vortex of much of what took place in Washington in the visual and literary arts.

"The Guide to Black Washington" (1990) is a block-by-block anecdotal review of the people, neighborhoods, and movements going back to the origins of the city in 1790.

Copyright Burnett Thompson Music, LLC 2021