As a kid, I loved to take the bus down Georgia Avenue and then walk. There was a tiny used-book store where I could look at books by black authors. I could see what photographs were in the windows of Scurlock studios. It was considered a dangerous area, but during the day it was full of life. I rode through there after the riots in 1968 and saw smoke still smoldering in many of the shop fronts. U Street was the cultural heart of the city. For blacks the restaurants and theaters served up the cream of black entertainers and sports figures: Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, the great jazz and blues stars. Ball players like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson could leave nearby Griffith Stadium and head out to U Street to celebrate. In WASHINGTON’S U STREET (Johns Hopkins Univ., $29.95), Blair A. Ruble takes us back to the days before Jim Crow, when U street was a mixed community, then looks at the post-Jim Crow era, when it was central to black cultural and social life, and moves on to today, and its spectacular revitalization.
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