Humanities Council of Washington Hosts Evening of Stories about Georgia Avenue Businesses

Last night’s Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. program on Georgia Avenue was held at Chez Billy’s, 3815 Georgia Avenue. The primary focus of the interesting evening was on long established Black businesses along Georgia Avenue and Howard University.

After opening remarks by Howard University president Sidney A. Ribeau and Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Sylvia Robinson moderated a conversation with Maybelle Bennett of Howard University, Haile Gerima of Sankofa, Sandra Fortune-Green of the Jones Haywood Dance School, B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr., president of Industrial Bank, and Romeo Morgan of Morgan’s Seafood. Many of them spoke about their dedication to the Georgia Avenue communities, and how difficult it was for African American businesses to get established along the corridor 50 to 60 years ago.

In the case of Industrial Bank, Mitchell related a story about opening their first branch on Georgia ca. 1962. As it was difficult for Blacks to purchase real estate even at that late date, Mitchell recalled having a light skinned African American who could pass as white make the purchase for the bank.

Other themes touched upon by the speakers were concern about displacement and the need for newer residents to become familiar with the history of the corridor. In her closing remarks, Humanities Council Executive Directory Joy Ford Austin touched upon the importance of the humanities and history in helping all of us that live in Washington get to know each other and come together as communities.

As successful as the evening was, I truly hope the Humanities Council will consider expanding their focus on Georgia Avenue in the future to include an event that covers the first 120 years of its history.

A few of the many, many attendees at Chez Billy’s for the Celebration of Georgia Avenue

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