In their book Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding of “The Town of George in 1751 to the Present Day, Kathleen M. Lesko and Valerie Babb bring to light the African American influence on Georgetown, D.C. and how its past has influenced it today. Lesko and Babb compare the past with the present to show how racial populations have changed over time, and where they still show up today.
In the introduction, Lesko and Babb write about why they decided to write this book and the impact they hope it will have on the recorded history of the area. On page xxi, it’s written that “while the restoration of Georgetown has preserved its historic architecture, it did little to preserve the unique heritage of all its people, including the black community.” During the formation of Georgetown (and America, for that matter), slavery was present. This made it difficult for people to keep a written history of African Americans, therefore “this book is the result of people trusting one another – sharing their stories to preserve a common heritage” (xxi). Today, Georgetown is a very gentrified area. The vast majority of the population (besides the college and grad students) are white, upper-class families. However, in this book, authors Lesko and Babb give a voice to African American Georgetowners looking to share their stories.
Towards the end of the book, the reader can tell that it takes on more of a tone of resilience and resistance. The black families remaining in the area are ones who have been there since the very beginning, ones who have stood up to the relocation efforts of the 1960s. Lesko and Babb include two powerful quotes to conclude the book, both by African American residents. The first: “This is home. Even if my family is the last black family on the block, it is important to be here” (143). The second: “There’ll always be at least a good minority in Georgetown, and it won’t ever get to be all whites. The blacks will keep the houses they have, and we’ll keep our house and everything, and we will still be here. Because I feel special to have lived in Georgetown. I feel it’s a part of me” (143). Both quotes have an impact on readers, appealing to pathos. Overall, Lesko and Babb write an informative, effective book on the subject of Georgetown’s African American history.
Lesko, Kathleen Menzie, et al. Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding of “The Town of George” in 1751 to the Present Day. Georgetown University Press, 2016, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19x3h6j.