Nothing’s New Under The Sun

History repeats itself.  It’s almost hard to perceive how much truth can be found behind such a simple phrase.  Nevertheless, mainly in regards to the similarities between the Black Codes and New York’s Stop & Frisk program, there couldn’t be any more truth.

The Black Codes began in Washington, D.C. in 1808, with Southern states passing their own legislation following the Civil War in 1865.  Some historians say that the Black Codes were as bad, if not worst, than slavery itself, and there are good reasons why.

The Black Codes restricted the right of African-Americans to own property (which includes buying and leasing land), conduct business and deprived them of the freedom of movement, a constitutional right.


For example, there were certain places throughout the South that prohibited African-Americans to be in a town after a certain time without special permission from his employers.  And the punishment if such laws were ever ignored?  Often times numerous days of public work and a fine that, in the 1860s, could prove rather difficult to pay.

In Washington, D.C., for example, blacks were not allowed were not allowed to be on the streets of the city after 10 p.m.  If this law was ever violated, free blacks could be fined up to five dollars, as enslaved African-Americans had to have their owners pay the fine, with the punishment for not meeting the fines being a whipping.  These laws were worsened with the new set of laws in 1812, as blacks could be fined for twenty dollars with the punishment for not paying being six months in jail.


However, it was not solely limited to the freedom of movement for African-Americans, as they were also unable to live in a town unless they worked for a white employer, they were not permitted to preach to congregations of black people unless given special permission from the local legal authority, nor were they able to carry any sort of weapon on them for defense.

Such were the limits of African-Americans over 150 years ago, which is part of the reason why so many find it so difficult to come to terms with the fact that such laws are still in place today, albeit in a slightly modified form.

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Arguably the closest set of laws to those of the Black Codes are those of New York’s stop-question-and-frisk program.  The New York stop-question-and-frisk program allows New York Police Department officers to stop and question someone the officer believes may have committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.  What’s more is that if the officer ever feels physically endangered, he or she is allowed to frisk, or search, the suspect for possible weapons.

Based on the United States Supreme Court decision in the Terry v. Ohio case of 1968, the stop-question-and-frisk program regularly sees in excess of 500,000 people stopped, with the numbers from 2011 reading a startling 684,000 having been stopped.

While there have been upsides to this program, such as suspects who actually were criminals having been apprehended, the subject of racial profiling hovers above the program like a dark storm cloud; the majority of people stopped are either African-American or Latino.

But what does this have to do with the Black Codes?  What does a program designed with the intention of stopping crimes before they happen have to do with a one hundred and fifty year old racist policy?

To find the answer, one must put the denial of the freedom of movement laws of the Black Codes into a modern context.  Blacks were not permitted to walk through a town at a certain time without special permission from their employers.  Today, African-Americans in New York City have a 55% chance of being stopped while walking through certain parts of the city at a certain time; 87% of people stopped by the program in 2012 were either Black or Latino.

What does all of this prove?

It proves that though we — Americans — may pride ourselves in our promotion of democracy and freedom, we are far from such a claim.  Is a nation really free when 13% of its citizens live in unacceptable conditions and are constantly the subject of racial profiling by authorities?  Is a nation really the greatest nation on earth when the police officers, the same people who’s very job descriptions are to ‘serve and protect’ the American people, target a specific group of people?  Is a nation really a home for financial prosperity when 39.8% of African-Americans live on welfare?

Is a nation really a place for a fresh start, when African-Americans have been held down for nearly five centuries?  I beg to differ, but then again it’s been the same way for 138 years.

Racial Profiling In America

By: Carl Alexander

Racial profiling has had a dramatic outbreak over the last few years due to things such as New York’s stop-question-and-frisk policy as well as the Stand Your Ground law. Law enforcement is the main group of people who play a role in racial profiling because of stereotypes. Law enforcement often times consider it much more common for a minority to commit a crime rather than a white person to commit a crime and, knowing this, minorities are usually the type of people law enforcement choose to pursue.

The stop-question-and-frisk policy of New York has been getting out of hand because Mayor Bloomberg has claimed that “too many white people have been getting stopped” and this leaves the minorities to be targeted.

In areas of gentrification, it is very uncommon for a minority to be in that neighborhood so they are usually watched. Police of today do not choose to protect minorities in certain situations because they infer that they are automatically the people that will be committing the crimes.

A more recent act of racial profiling has been the Trayvon Martin controversy which included a 28-year-old man inferring that a 17-year-old child looked like a suspect. The true intentions of George Zimmerman were to pursue Trayvon because he had felt threatened by him. This was a prime example of racism and racial profiling but the jurors let him walk free with murder.

This arose much controversy and outrage such as protest which eventually lead to the arrest of more people for supporting a cause, however, George Zimmerman was still free. When minorities are in their younger years, people depict if they are going to end up in jail or not as the government begins to build the jails based off of what they expect the children’s lives will be like. Minorities are targeted everyday and it will be very difficult to stop because of the history that has occurred and the mindset that certain people have.




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July 24, 2013

On July 24, the young researchers and directors of the I SAW! DC summer program began their day at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church.

There the young scholars continued to work on their final projects.  Each of the young scholars of the I SAW! D.C. summer program have been assigned specific jobs that suit their talents.


After breaking for lunch, the group of young directors and researchers boarded a bus as they were about to be treated to a final tour led by Mr. C.R. Gibbs.  The tour began with a drive through Georgetown, of which the Conduit Road Schoolhouse on MacArthur Boulevard and the Union Burial Cemetery (a Civil War era cemetery that is still maintained by the Union Burial Society) which is a stone’s throw off of MacArthur Boulevard.

The Conduit Road Schoolhouse was built in 1864 as the replacement of a schoolhouse which had originally burned down.  It was a school for white children and was closed in 1928 and was later made a Children’s Museum in 1965.

Interestingly enough, there was a school for black children called the Chain Bridge Road Colored School that was the center of black education which was closed in 1941 and was later gotten rid of.

After the bus traversed over the 14th Street Bridge, the young scholars went to Alexandria, Virginia.  There the young men and women of the program Shiloh Baptist Church, the Mary and Emily Edmonson statue in Edmonson Plaza in Alexandria, the Alexandria African-American Heritage Park, the Alexandria Market and the Alexandria Canal.

The Alexandria Market was a place of extreme interest and emotional impact for the young men and women of the program.  The Alexandria Market was the site of a lynching on King And North Fairfax in 1899.

The ‘reason’ behind the lynching was the accusation that a 19-year-old man touched a white child while armed.  Police were not sure of who to blame for the lynching, as a mob of 500 to 1,000 people were present at the lynching.  The Alexandria Market was also a place where slave auctions were held for forty years.

After leaving the Alexandria Market, the group of young directors and researchers travelled down to the Alexandria Canal, a place which was crucial for trade and was also formerly a portion of the Underground Railroad.

The tour to Alexandria was a very influential experience, crucial to helping the young directors and researchers of the I SAW! D.C. be able to pass  on the history of black Washington.

Gentrification In Washington, D.C.

By Carl Alexander

In the Washington, D.C. of today, there is no question that gentrification has been moving minority residents out of the city.

The proper definition of gentrification is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces residents of lesser wealth.  This means that when an area of great value is taken over for renovation and new design, the people who are living there must be moved somewhere else.

Once this occurs, these people are usually moved to lower class neighborhoods or forced into suburban areas that they can not afford and are soon evicted from.

A main reason for gentrification within the area is because people of higher status no longer want to live in suburban areas but instead wish to move into urban areas so that they will be closer to things such as their workplaces and places of social hangouts.

People of lower income, however, are usually not acknowledged in renovations such as this because, in this society, if you do not have money your voice will usually not be heard.

Upon visiting the D.C. Archives as well as the Library of Congress, we began to learn how gentrification has occurred over time, especially in old black Georgetown, the area of D.C. that this project is focusing on.

These places are great resources for our information because they allow us to know anything during the specific time period we are researching because the information cannot be destroyed.

As we walk through Georgetown almost everyday, we are surrounded by people who know nothing about the history we are uncovering.  So, as a group, it is our job to convey this essential information out to people so that we are able to spread the word.

July 19th, 2013

By: Bradley Credit

On Friday, July 19, the young directors of the I SAW! DC summer program began their work day by meeting at the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Georgetown.

IMG_6518There the young scholars of the program continued to discuss the objectives they plan to have met by the conclusion of the program; one such idea that was agreed upon was the creation of a video game to help further reach those interested in the program.

After breaking for lunch, the young directors walked towards a nearby bus station as a very unique experience had been planned for them.

Following hopping off the bus stop on New Hampshire Avenue, the young scholars walked over to the house of Carter Bowman.

Carter Bowman is a 92-year-old elder of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church community.  Born in old black Georgetown in 1921, Bowman has since dedicated his life to preserving history.  “You can just read history, and think nothing about it,” he said.  “You take these dates and look at what happened in public history either in the church or in the community.”

Bowman answered questions from the young directors in a question-and-answer format.  Among the ranging variety of questions asked, Bowman’s responses highlighted the Washington he remembers, and also how it has changed over the years.

“I hope you begin to look out for one another,” he said.  “I hope you move to different parts of the city, and maybe even travel the world.”

July 18th, 2013

By: Bradley Credit

As the nation’s capital awoke to yet another unreasonably hot day, the young researchers and directors of the I SAW! DC 2013 summer program gathered at the Mt. Zion Church in Georgetown on Thursday, July 18 instead of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Northwestern Washington, DC.

IMG_6517The morning began with God-sent air conditioning and a discussion of apartheid in South Africa as it was the birthday of Nelson Mandela.

As Mandela continues to fight for his life in hospital on life support, the young scholars of the program discussed U.S. relations with South Africa, the anti-apartheid movement and also some of the horrid realities of the period of  apartheid.

IMG_6508Following the conclusion of the discussion focusing on South Africa, the young men and women of the program went on to discuss how the research that has been and will be absorbed through the various resources gathered will be applied to the final project.

D.C. area history was also discussed so that the young researchers understood the evidence they had gathered, and also how other events relate to previously acquired evidence.  All of this was done in preparation of the project that will have been completed by the conclusion of the program.

Some of the events that were spoken of were the Snow Riots of 1835, the Pearl Escape and the riots that ensued not long afterwards, the Compromise of 1850 and the Black Power movement of the 1970s.

July 17th, 2013

By: Bradley Credit

Wednesday, July 17 began as most other days have begun in the I SAW! The Experience of Learning in D.C., with the young researchers and directors meeting at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church. The only real difference was the air temperature, as it was very, very hot.

The young men and women of the program began their work day with a group discussion of what needs to be done in the African-American community in response to the George Zimmerman verdict.

The young researchers and directors highlighted peaceful protest, civil rights action, a riddance of ignorance, racial profiling, the black-on-black violence that still unfortunately lives on in places across the United States, and corrupt social power structures.

“I think that the George Zimmerman trial was a distraction,” Jamal Cephus said during a discussion focusing on the corrupt power structure that has been set in place in America. “Black people are killing black people in Chicago at an alarming rate,” he went on to say.
After a discussion of the national issue with race, specifically focusing on the black community, the concept of resilience was introduced as the focus of this summer’s project and how African-American ancestors have made great contributions in the United States community.