If you want to enjoy Washington DC shopping, come to
the 14th and U Street district. While exploring the U
Street stores in DC, you can also experience the renaissance
of the late Duke Ellington's neighborhood. The historic
heart of the city's African-American community in the
first half of the twentieth century, name entertainers,
black-owned businesses, and grand movie theaters made
14th and U Street the place to be. Today, the 14th and
U Street/Shaw community Washington is every bit as vibrant
and colorful as it was then. Specialty shops and friendly
cafes have opened up next to storied theaters and jazz
clubs. Brightly colored row houses have become vintage
Washington DC shopping boutiques, cozy restaurants and
funky home furnishing stores. Fashionable hotels, bed
and breakfasts, and nightclubs are just footsteps away from the familiar haunts of jazz
Before the rise of Harlem in New York, this area of DC evolved as "the" gathering place for African Americans, a cultural haven. Slaves seeking their freedom during the Civil War era found sanctuary in Union Army encampments here. These freemen founded missionary churches that prosper still today. Intellectual and artistic elite from the black community began to gather here, attracted to Howard University at the north end of the neighborhood. By the early 20th century, the area was the nerve center of the city's black community, home to businesses and places of entertainment, and the major social institutions of black Washington.
The Shaw Community Washington, the urban area around 14th and U Street, is rich in history and brimming with untold stories and legends. Shaw is a rare gem among American cities, having spawned a remarkable list of outstanding achievers, including Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. DuBois, Dorothy Height, Duke Ellington, Mary McLeod Bethune and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Also, the greatest names in entertainment played the neighborhood's theaters, clubs, and after-hours hideaways. Appearing regularly at the Club Bali, the Crystal Caverns, the Lincoln Colonnade and the Howard Theatre were Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Sarah Vaughn and Nat King Cole.
To experience something of this vibrant history today, take the self-guided walking tour, City Within a City, marked by engaging, highly illustrative signs along U Street and beyond. Visit the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, where restorations and historic displays recall the times when the promising poet Langston Hughes visited there. In the True Reformer Hall, make sure to check out the African American Civil War Memorial Museum.
If history doesn't appeal to you, you can enjoy an outing at the U Street stores in DC, or one of the new restaurants, theaters and clubs that are reviving this area as a vibrant center of entertainment in the nation's capital. Historic jazz venues like Bohemian Caverns that once hosted the biggest names in jazz welcome local and touring performers for special engagements. The majestically restored Lincoln Theatre showcases local dance, theatre, and music talents and hosts film festivals and screenings. Two of the city's most popular venues for live music, the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club, are right around the corner. For a quieter night of mellow jazz or coffee, try U-topia or Sparky's Café.
If Washington DC shopping is your kind of adventure, try the hip clothing at Aunt Neensie's and shoes at Wild Women Wear Red. Goodwood is a favorite stop for antique hunters, where you can find bargains on 19th century furniture. Or, if you like brightly colored, inventive home décor, check out Home Rule, the name of which pokes fun at DC's quest for statehood. Whatever you do, enjoy this neighborhood's rich culture, which is bursting at the seams with life, jazz and color.