On Friday, September 26, WAMU, the NPR affiliate in Washington, D.C., aired a discussion on the history of gentrification and political representation in the nation’s capital. The segment ran on Metro Connection, a weekly news magazine program.
George Derek Musgrove ’97, history, associate professor of history, was interviewed for the story and provided historical context and analysis of gentrification in Washington. Musgrove discussed “The Plan,” a concept that newspaper columnist Lillian Wiggins wrote about in the 1970s and believed would transform the city.
“She believed that whites in D.C. had a plan to come back and take over the city — both its real estate, its physical space, and its politics,” Musgrove said during the segment. He added that it’s important to look more deeply at what Wiggins was describing given the demographics of the city at the time: “I think there were a number of things that caused people to look at The Plan as a viable explanation for what was happening around them,” he said. A major factor, he explained, was “our lack of statehood, and Congress’s ability to meddle in the city’s affairs.”
In a separate segment, Musgrove noted that, “D.C. has had a post-industrial economy for its entire history.” He identified four waves of gentrification in D.C., each lining up with expansion of the federal government. In the 1970s and 80s, there was a burst of development in what had become very poor inner city neighborhoods.
“The rate of displacement in places like Adams Morgan, Logan Circle, Columbia Heights, was astonishing. I mean absolutely astonishing. Developers would buy up in certain cases whole streets, and send out notices: ‘Please get out in the next month, we’re going to be fixing these places up.’ And renters, by the year 1978 just revolted.”
To listen to the full segments, click below:
Is Gentrification in D.C. Going According to “The Plan?”
Why Did African Americans Leave Georgetown?