Local policy in the nation's capital has always influenced national politics. During Reconstruction, black Washingtonians were first to exercise their new franchise. But when congressmen abolished local governance in the 1870s, they set the precedent for southern disfranchisement. In the aftermath of this process, memories of voting and citizenship rights inspired a new generation of Washingtonians to restore local government in their city and lay the foundation for black equality across the nation. And women were at the forefront of this effort.
Here Mary-Elizabeth B. Murphy tells the story of how African American women in D.C. transformed civil rights politics in their freedom struggles between 1920 and 1945. Even though no resident of the nation's capital could vote, black women seized on their conspicuous location to testify in Congress, lobby politicians, and stage protests to secure racial justice, both in Washington and across the nation. Women crafted a broad vision of citizenship rights that put economic justice, physical safety, and legal equality at the forefront of their political campaigns. Black women's civil rights tactics and victories in Washington, D.C., shaped the national postwar black freedom struggle in ways that still resonate today.