U Street

In my semester long project I chose to research the famous U Street Corridor. Visiting clubs and resturants on U Street, I have grown fond of its beautiful culture and muscial scene. I learned about its rich history as a African American community to a riot-stricken desserted drug market. In my research I provide many documents, pictures, stories, and lives. Adding to the interest, I also partied hard in many of the places I have researched. Finally, I have comprised a semester long project about the beloved U Street and learned to appreciate what it offers.

Annotated Bibs

Exterior Descriptions

Interior Descriptions 

Mapping Commonplaces

Mapping Commonplaces: How U Street’s past shaped its future

Map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/2/viewer?hl=en&authuser=2&mid=1PkLaNoA2uZaw8Z0Ep63eu0E_IAk&ll=38.91717533568296%2C-77.03167324999998&z=15

The U Street Corridor is a very fascinating spatial network that has experienced many changes. Throughout its history the corridor has seen the height of jazz to record high crime rates and,most recently, a multicultural utopia. Now, when I refer to the corridor as a utopia, I try to exemplify the fresh look of U Street as a melting point. The reason for comparing its culturality to a utopia is to help my audience of travelers and tourists understand the recent change it has experienced. Once the change is understood, it can be investigated and studied to see how the past of U Street beautifully shapes the method that was used to implement its change. The argument is not designed in such a fashion which praises the culturality of the new U Street while mocking the African American ghetto of the old U Street. Rather, it portrays the network which was created in the old U Street in order to explain the multicultural change which has occurred. Of course, such a network can be used at the discretion of the neighbourhood’s officials and was conspicuously used to model the means through which the change was facilitated.

Communion on U Street

To better understand the point of my research, you must understand the rhetoric which was present before the contemporary U Street. Firstly, lets go all the way back to the jazz age of U Street and understand how it emerged as an African American community. As Brianna Thomas put it in her article on “The Washingtonian,” “the neighbourhood hummed day and night.” The interesting mystery was the reason behind all the unity and communion. As Brianna Thomas explains, the neighbourhood had almost 300 businesses all run by black people, many of which were in turn supported by the same people. But, it wasn’t the myriad of businesses which kept the community together in harmony, it was something more magical.

Music trembled through the streets day and night, literally exemplifying the “humming” phrase Thomas used to describe the vibe of the community. Specifically jazz was the unifying music that acted as a honey which attracted every single bee or in this case, person, to the honeycomb. In this situation, the honeycomb is the various famous jazz clubs in which black people met and harmonized over the sweet sound of jazz. The early jazz clubs were literally basements with jazz musicians and instruments, which occasionally served beverages. Further down the road, the predominantly black community realized their love for food, as well as music, and began producing famous restaurants where most of the community would meet. Eventually, the two titans of community, jazz and food, became one when many jazz clubs started to offer food and live music. The black community loved the idea so much that the corridor started to flood with music lovers, food lovers, and lovers of social communion. The U Street Corridor was finally coined “Black Broadway” and continued to flow with black musicians and black artists.

Dessertion on U Street

Zooming a little further in time, the community which boomed with so much life and union turned into a drug market. Furthermore, it was a deserted neighbourhood which housed drug lords and gang leaders in abandoned homes for no charge. All of this change and turmoil was finally seen by the neighbourhood’s leaders. These leaders looked at the deserted neighbourhood and started to come up with ideas which would help the well being of the neighbourhood. The first thing they did was create housing projects which served to be very affordable for the residents around U Street. With minimal success, this idea was halted and leaders started to look elsewhere. Although not expressly stated, leaders started to become desperate to rebuild their neighbourhood. Finally, they looked to the past for some answers and the past answered. According to her article about U Street on “The Atlantic,” Garance Franke-Ruta explains how leaders lowered property taxes and rent to encourage the middle class people to move to U Street. Sooner or later, the plan worked and the neighbourhood started to repopulate. With the repopulation of different peoples, along with the low housing costs, new businesses started to open their doors. Through different combinations of music, food, and culture, venues started to open and fill with different and unique cultures.

My research is provided to explain how the rhetors of the past shape the contemporary U Street Corridor. Using a few famous landmarks, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl and Twins Jazz, I portray the new cultural venues as deviations of these past venues. Through my four rhetors of music, food, culture, and change, I construct a CLS which is derivative of the eternal network of the corridor. Even though I explain my rhetorical situation above, I try to let the commonplaces speak for themselves and make my audience ask themselves: What was before?


Works Citied:

12, Briana Thomas on February, and 2017. “The Forgotten History of U Street.” Washingtonian, 12 Feb. 2017, https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/02/12/forgotten-history-u-street-black-broadway/.

Franke-Ruta, Garance. “The Politics of the Urban Comeback: Gentrification and Culture in D.C.” The Atlantic, Aug. 2012. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/the-politics-of-the-urban-comeback-gentrification-and-culture-in-dc/260741/.


The Corridor is Cool Again

In her New York Times article “The Corridor is Cool Again”, Alicia Ault highlights one of her favorite neighborhoods in her hometown of DC. She presents the re emergence of the neighbourhood of U Street in a proud, and exciting fashion. In fact, I don’t believe anyone can blame her. Imagine the last time you saw your hometown it was being desecrated, neglected and forgotten. Flashing back to modern times, the same place is booming with cultural diversity, nightlife, food, and music. It’s the change of the century and of course you would want to tell everyone about it so they can share the same experience. Now, if you were to write about its brilliance, I believe that it is only appropriate to write in an epideictic oratory when describing this neighborhood.

From her website, Alicia Ault explains that she is a DC native who used to cover everything health care. From the Reagan to the Obama administration, Ault covered the beginnings of the AIDS crisis to the ascendance of the Affordable Care Act. However, in 2014 she explains that after eight years as a medical publisher she joined the freelancing community. In her freelancing career she tells us that she has written about things like the  Patagonia mountains and the Consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. Most of all, she explains that if she had a “holy trinity” to chose from it would be the three things she loves most: Food, Culture, and Music.

Wild women wear red clothing store

She truly found the perfect mix of her favorite elements when she realized the exciting re emergence of her hometown neighbourhood of U Street. To make things even more picturesque for her article, she had the pleasure of describing a place where she spent so many of her years in. Ault was literally there when it happened and revealed specifics about the street which no website or article could ever describe in such detail. Whether you wanted to know where to get 70s retro oversize sunglasses or a Saint & Angels belt with a Jesus-and-Mary diptych buckle, you knew Ault’s information was reliable because it was coming from a native.

Not to mention, she did it with so much pride when she described that for a restaurant on U Street named Creme “there was a two-hour wait for the restaurant’s upscale version of Southern dishes like shrimp and grits(16$) or pork and beans (18$).” Basically explaining that even though there was a two hour wait, the restaurant served cheap dishes that were in fact so good that they even created the two hour wait in the first place. Beyond her numerous examples of U Street’s food and clothing outlets, Ault also commented on the unusually vast art scene. From the western end to the eastern end of the remade neighbourhood of U Street, there were numerous works of polish art, local art, war-themed photography, and many more. Not only did she include the diversity of art, but as a side note she added that one of the galleries participated in the famous International Center for Photography in New York. Ault used the day-scene of U Street to subtly persuade tourists and  locals to visit this neighbourhood.

U Street’s Landmark: Ben’s Chili Bowl

Using seemingly obvious techniques of logos, and ethos, Ault pulled the ordinary traveler closer to booking a ticket to DC in order to experience U Street’s awesomeness. But Ault didn’t only use the outlets and exhibits to attract her audience. She also quoted college kids, senior citizens, and former tourists on their views on this reincarnated street. A former DC resident, who moved to Philadelphia, had a revitalizing experience when he revisited his home town. Ault tells us that Phil Coleman, a forty-three year old, thought he got out on the wrong metro stop when he went to visit a friend on U Street.  To say the least, the former resident was astonished by the diverse crowd and multitude of things to do. Ault shows her audience that if something is so new and eye catching to a resident , it would be even more enjoyable to an ordinary tourist. She even shows her readers a totally different perspective of a young Georgetown graduate to incorporate and relate to the new generation of young people.  The 24 year-old alumni speaks to the relaxing, classy, and jazzy atmosphere that he feels when he goes out to U Street. With this Ault uses ethos in order to help readers from all ages relate to the experiences which are presented in her article.

Ault persuades tourists and travelers very well with all of her appeals to different aspects which elicit a sense of credibility. But, she does this with a passion which seems to eternal and the real rhetoric of her article is the fire which fuels this passion. Now, if we were to put ourselves into Ault’s shoes, we could understand what this fire is and where it comes from. Well, if the riots and gentrification of U Street started in the late 80s and went into the late 90s, then Ault was only a teenager going into her mid 20s during these riots. She basically was taught not to go to the neighbourhood of U Street because of its crime

U Streets Bohemian Caverns modern times(left) and the 90s (right)

and danger.  Now, almost 15 years later, Ault returns to see the area of crime turn into a new and exciting utopia of new cultures. Something which was off-limits and not really safe in her childhood turned into the place to be in terms of her three favorite things: Food Culture and Music. Ault did what any regular, sentimental human being would do; she revisited the revolutionized neighbourhood and bathed in its luxuries and excitement. Not only did this reincarnated neighbourhood attract Ault and many more like her, but also it was representative of who raised her. The change of U Street showed the entire world that if DC as a whole can change such a trouble neighbourhood into such a utopia, together, DC can do anything. I believe that Ault caught on to this representative situation and used U Street to show where she really came from. She used the neighbourhood to take pride in her hometown. Her specific oratory was fueled by this love for her city and contributed to her epideictic tone. She wanted to appeal not to a group of people, but to everybody and show that U Street is not the only utopia present in DC. Of course, as all great journalists know, pride and the ability to express it is the key to writing a persuasive article.

We all understand Ault’s excitement  to rush and put her love on paper, but the interesting thing is how she did it.  Since her article is from over a decade ago, there are new inspired journalists in the same section Ault wrote in on the New York Times; the section is called travel and it has thousands of new articles since Ault’s. These new articles do not contain places as important as U Street, but they present their area in a more colorful way. These articles contain multimodal sources like picture, videos, audio clips, etc. For example, Lucas Petterson, a journalist for the New York Times uses a professional photographer, Darren S. Higgins, to create a beautiful image capturing the cool and hip of Baltimore.

Hampden Junque, a small vintage store whose shelves are packed with movie memorabilia

The multimodal sources make the article more appealing to the new technological generation and therefore allow for more agreement and interest about the article. In contrast, Ault’s article contains mostly plain text, without any pictures or alternate descriptions of U Street. This fact is especially interesting because of the time difference between the new and Ault’s relatively old article. It does not necessarily speak to the effectiveness of the article, but it does create two different norms for two different generations. I would say that Ault’s type of presentation of her article is representative of the time she wrote in therefore, all her audience needed was text. On the other hand, these new journalist’s articles appeal to a much different audience. An audience which needs a more colorful and appealing stimulation of their senses in order to understand and grasp the content of the article. In general, Ault’s audience is more old-fashioned and simple making them more easy to appeal to.

This explanation of  how these different journalists present their article does not necessarily show that Ault ineffectively presented U Street, it just shows that she did it in a different time to appeal to a different audience. Ault’s article was extremely effective and representative of her rhetorical situation. Just like in modern times people have created youtube to present information on video, the early 21th century, which Ault wrote in, had newspapers and journals to present information. Ault’s article wanted to express the utopia of U Street to all people willing to travel in 2006 by means of simple text which expressed love and pride of her hometown. She did it because she wanted to show everyone not only how U Street changed, but also because she wanted to she the effort her hometown of DC put into its neighbourhoods. Even if it Ault produced an article not appealing to the contemporary generation, I believe the rhetorical situation consistent with the time in which she wrote this article effectively expresses the importance of her content present in her article.







Alicia Ault | Journalist and Adventuress. http://aliciaault.com/. Accessed 22 Apr. 2017.


Ault, Alicia. “U Street: The Corridor Is Cool Again.” The New York Times, 14 Apr. 2006. NYTimes.com, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/14/travel/escapes/u-street-the-corridor-is-cool-again.html.


Peterson, Lucas. “Exploring Baltimore, a City With Style to Spare, on a Budget.” The New York Times, 20 Apr. 2017. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/travel/baltimore-budget-travel-john-waters.html.

“Ben’s Chili Bowl.” Tiny Urban Kitchen, 6 May 2010, http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/bens-chili-bowl/.

Bugs, Diva. “Wild Women Wear Red … Closing?!” Diva Bugs (TM), 28 Apr. 2008, http://divabugs.blogspot.com/2008/04/wild-women-wear-red-closing.html.


U Street’s Eternal History


U-Street Music

Right in the heart of the famous U-street corridor, is a music hall which was built only 6 years ago, but boasts feats such as “#10 Best Club in America” (Rolling Stone Magazine, 2013). Contrary to popular belief that the hall’s fame and fortune is due to the artists that play there, it actually has a very interesting history that has shaped both its future and the environment surrounding it. U-street is a musically significant area that was one of the liaison cities to early jazz in the 1940s. It was home to musicians like Louis Armstrong, and it had jazz centers such as the famous Crystal Caverns. This booming music industry was created by an eternal unity that African Americans on Black Broadway created amongst themselves. A certain article from The Washingtonian really describes the inspiring network that was created in U Street during the 20th century.                                                                                                                            Written by Briana Thomas, The Forgotten History of U Street leads us to uncover the rich history behind this famous street. It all started in the early 1900s and went into the 1950s. African-Americans, subject to Jim Crow laws in other parts of town, were free to own businesses in U Street and build a sort of “city within a city.” It was a place where Black Washingtonians sent their kids to day camp at the country’s first African-American YMCA, worshipped together in numerous neighborhood churches, and launched a movement against segregation from Black Broadway’s many gathering places. In the early part of the 20th century, U Street was known as a ghetto that was the closest to the metropolitan area. All the African Americans would live there, and the central/city rhetoric of the location really placed this community in a position where it could create an eventful, unified neighborhood. This unity and mutuality brought African Americans, which lived around U Street, together.                                              To make up the many gathering places in U Street, African Americans used their heart and soul when it came to unifying people. They believed that by unifying more and more people, racism would cease. Among the many gathering places, they created National treasures like Ben’s Chili Bowl. These treasures were created by average people like Virginia Ali, who worked at Industrial bank before starting Ben’s Chili Bowl in 1958 with her husband. African Americans in the community started to come up with ideas that they could benefit from, and ideas that the entire community of U Street could benefit from. These ideas even stretched as far as the white house, where William P. and Winifred Lee would arrange bouquets of flowers for the white house in their Lee’s Flower and Card Shop in 1945. The community hummed day and night, using its unity to construct more than 300 black businesses by the 1930s. Edging away from business and money, the African American community of U Street came together on an annual parade called the Capital Classic. The Capital Classic, an annual parade featuring college football games and a beauty pageant

But of course there was not only one year round parade for the entire community. According to Richard Lee, the son of the parents who opened Lee’s Flower Shop, “We used to have parades up and down here almost every Saturday during football season …They would stay up all night sometimes, my mother and father, putting the bouquets together.” Religious leaders such as Bishop CM Grace stood up to unite the community through prayer and song. He constructed the United House of Prayer for All People, which he founded in the late 1920s near Howard University. As you can see the community’s leaders emphasized that the community was a place where people of any race could come together and unite under one street. It was all about creating a network, something that proceeds mortal life and lives on forever. But throughout all the flower shops, churches, and restaurants there was one thing that was instrumental in connecting U Street’s network: Jazz.                                                                                                                Jazz is what gave U Street its popular name, and is what created a network that would spread across the entire neighborhood surrounding it. With the upbringing of jazz, names like Duke Ellington brought attention and audience to the street that was once considered an African American ghetto. Jazz clubs like the Crystal Caverns (Bohemian Caverns), Hollywood, or even Club Bali invited the world’s top musicians to U Street.                                     The locations to the biggest jazz caverns on U Street during the early 20th century


In underground basements, that looked like caves on the inside, were people like Louis Armstrong who played the trumpet and filled the Street with the beautiful sound of Jazz. Locals and people from around the country visited the musical sensation of U Street which was also coined as Black Broadway. “There must have been 15, 20 clubs. There were a lot of cats—and here is the thing about Black Broadway: You didn’t come down here looking raggedy. You came down here dressed.” U Street became a sensation, even regarded as DC’s crowned attractions.  People were beginning to enjoy the unique musical performances that lit up the street during all times of the night.

Louis Armstrong on Jan 30, 1942 playing the presidential birthday ball at U Street’s Lincoln colonnade.


People came together, spent time in jazz clubs and collaborated to make a U Street not only a booming neighborhood, but also a family which preached unity. Through support, unity, and love the African American community of U Street created a sound of harmonizing jazz that still sounds through the street today.                                                                                                                                 This sound is responsible for the very network of music and entertainment which still echoes through the street. In fact, as many examples show, the eternal unity which jazz created in the 20th century is the reason why U Street is still known for music. It wasn’t until desegregation and gentrification that U Street’s eternal sound faced the true test of time. From the 1970s to the early 21st century, Black Broadway faced many changes that rearranged the structure of its booming jazz scene and famous businesses. Clubs and community centers closed down, people moved to different places, traditions ceased, and people began to forget. The famous community center, The Republic Theater, was closed down in order to create a new metro station. The gem of jazz clubs on U Street, crystal caverns, closed down recently. All that’s left currently are the landmarks like Howard and Lincoln theater that used to house jazz every single night, but now all that’s left is a few jazz gigs a month. U Street music seemed to be dying, but through all the changes and renovations, U Street kept its reputation. Throughout the construction of new office buildings, skyscrapers, and high rises, U Street continued its musical nature.                                                                                                                                     Modern concert halls like the famous U Street music hall continue to draw everyone’s attention to this musical street. Hoards of college students, tourists, and even locals attend the music venues that are open almost every day. At night, nightclubs in and around U Street are packed with anybody over 18 years of age.

                                            Tennyson performing at U Street Music Hall

Some even say that U Street’s modern night life is even more spectacular and crowded as it was before. The only difference is that jazz is not as featured as it used to be. It is of course still sounded through U Street, but the crowd has changed. U Street music hall has many artists that produce music from an array of genres. From country music to electric dance music and even nights like 90s night, U street music hall has welcomed all people from all different musical genres. Not only has the hall picked different types of music, but also it has allowed many local and young artists to perform at their venue in order to make a name for themselves. Just as the family-like community of Black Broadway brought up many local stars like Duke Ellington, so does the contemporary version of U Street. As you can see, the network does not only pertain to musical genre, but also to the upbringing of talent artists and new musical genre.                                                                                                                                                           Times and musical tastes have changed, but of course some things are so revolutionary and important that they cannot be ceased. Jazz in modern U Street has still prevailed and still contains an audience that is in attendance every day of the week. At different venues, and small jazz clubs that survived the gentrification, there are jazz gatherings that keep jazz on U Street alive. For tourists and people who just want to know about the jazz listings in dc, the DCist has compiled a list of jazz gatherings happening in clubs such as Twins Jazz, right in the heart of U Street. Even if people, landscape, and modern norms change, something as permanent as music will always exist among the modern community.                                                                                                                                               Many years ago, when U Street was just an African American neighborhood ghetto, ragtime was played in private basements. People that had dreams of famous businesses did not act on those dreams. Everything that U Street was at its peak of success only came to be because of the unity that the African American people strived for. A unity which, with the help of jazz, made sure everyone in the community prospered and succeeded. Black Broadway and the contemporary musical U Street were only possible because of the network that was engraved in the area. What created this network was the togetherness of the African American community in the early 20th century. This network even stretched to different cities like New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans. It inspired the power of music in these places and displayed the harmony of jazz.  The connection between people on U Street in the 20th century was so strong that it proves to be something that cannot be forgotten or destroyed.






12, Briana Thomas on February, and 2017. “The Forgotten History of U Street.” Washingtonian, 12 Feb. 2017, https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/02/12/forgotten-history-u-street-black-broadway/.

U Street Jazz – Performers – The Beginnings of Jazz. https://www2.gwu.edu/~jazz/performersb.html. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“U Street’s Unique History.” Washington.org, 21 Mar. 2016, https://washington.org/visit-dc/u-streets-unique-history-washington-dc.