"URBAN ODYSSEY: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C." by Francine Curro--Ed. Cary

"URBAN ODYSSEY: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C."

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A series of essays designed to show that Washington, D.C., is more than a city of mostly white male transients who shuttle weekly between sound bites on Capitol Hill and chicken dinners with their far-flung constituencies. This project began as a series of television shows and conference papers funded mostly by the D.C. Community Humanities Council (editor Cary is its executive director). The goal was to probe behind the white marble facades of the nation's capital and reveal a city of rich cultural diversity. Beginning with the Piscataway Indians, whose ancestors hunted and fished the headwaters of the Potomac River as long as 11,000 years ago, and ending with the most recent wave of Korean immigrants--who like the entrepreneurial Chinese and Southeast Asians before them, sidestep prejudice and bureaucracy by opening dry cleaning businesses, restaurants, and grocery stores--waves of people have made Washington their home. Those included the first influx of blacks, many of them slaves, who by 1800 made up nearly a third of the city's population. As Washington was built, rebuilt following the War of 1812, and rebuilt again in a surge of self-improvement after 1900, Irish, Italian, and German workers, artisans, and craftsmen came to help. Also leaving traces on the avenues and alleyways were Greeks, Jews, Latinos, West Indians, and nouveaux riches from the West and Midwest. Through the years, African-Americans continued to come from the South in search of better schools, better jobs, and more political muscle. They were often disappointed, but Washington blacks were also among the first to picket, boycott, and sue to end segregation, leading the way into the civil rights movement of the '60s. Formulaic and bland--a not very successful effort to examine one side of the life of this very troubled and divided city.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Smithsonian