U Street’s History of Excellence: A journey through Black Broadway’s cultural tapestry
It’s hard to believe that Blue Fern Travel is about to walk into its 10th year in business! This incredible milestone has me very excited for our future as well as reflective on our past, both as a company and our collective past.
Through the development of our flagship tour, Black Broadway U Street Fork Tour, we dove into the history of this iconic neighborhood, its enduring culture and vibrant community. And like many who’ve walked the corridor, I fell in love.
This iconic enclave has created a legacy all its own and made a mark of Washington DC’s culture as well as the culture of our nation as a whole. It began with Howard University, established in 1867 and a wave of African Americans coming up from the south during the Civil war and reconstruction, and blossomed into what was Black Broadway by the early 20th century.
Beginning with Howard Theatre, established in 1910, Lincoln Theater and Bohemian Caverns followed suit and the corridor was soon laced with jazz clubs and an elegant nightlife. You could hear the likes of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and jazz saxophonists like the ‘Wailing Mailman’ coming out of the clubs. Women dressed to the nines and men showed up in tuxes. This era of Black excellence reverberated all the way up to Harlem, paving the way for music legends across the country.
This legacy continues to inspire awe particularly when considering the ups and downs the neighborhood has endured over the last century. Amidst modern developments, businesses like Ben’s Chili Bowl and historic landmarks like The Lincoln Theatre stand as guardians of U Street’s unique identity, ensuring that the stories of Black Broadway survive. And in a corridor peppered with beautiful theaters, great performances and Michelin stars, it is easy to see the excellence of the community persists to this day.
So whether you take in the tastes of U Street’s Black Broadway on a Fork tour, drink in the jazz and cocktails on a Fizz Tour, or just spend an afternoon meandering on your own, U Street is not to be missed!