The Centennial of the Alexander Crummell School, a long-neglected historic landmark in the Ivy City community, was celebrated on Saturday, November 19, 2011. (Yes, this post is well after the fact, but certainly still relevant.) Empower DC released the Ivy City Neighborhood & Oral History Project, a book that features photos, excerpts from oral history interviews, and archival news clippings about one of DC’s most historic yet least known neighborhoods. The booklet will be distributed to participants, community members and libraries.
The reception was attended by many of the former Ivy City residents and alumni of Ivy City’s Alexander Crummell School. In 2002, several Crummell alumni played a key role, along with the Ivy City–Trinidad Civic Association, in winning historic landmark status for the Alexander Crummell School, which was built in 1911 and served as one of the District of Columbia’s first public elementary schools for black children until its closure in 1972. The Crummell alumni and current residents of the community share the goal of not only preserving the school but also having it renovated to serve as a recreation and workforce development center for the neighborhood, which currently lacks amenities of the sort.
Photos featured in the book demonstrate how Ivy City was a haven for middle- and working-class blacks during the District of Columbia’s more segregated past. The book also documents the efforts of the children and youth of Ivy City as they attempt to transform the abandoned Crummell School into a community center, including a photo of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty signing a pledge to renovate Crummell for community needs. “The book will be a resource for teachers, students and all DC residents, who can learn about this small but uniquely tight-knit community,” explains Empower DC Executive Director Parisa Norouzi. “This is the first known record of the community’s history.” The goal of the Ivy City Neighborhood and Oral History Project is to bring together the former and current residents who both have the best interest of the community at heart as well as to foster pride in the community through the sharing of oral history and personal stories.
In addition to the release of the Ivy City Neighborhood & Oral History Project book, the celebration was also an opportunity to screen the documentary Crummell School: Heart and Soul of the Community, which was produced by American University Anthropology student and Grassroots Media Project intern Sean Furmage.