Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born in this Brookland home at 1221 Newton St. NE in 1896. Her parents were Arthur Frank Kinnan, an attorney for the US Patent Office, and Ida May Traphagen Kinnan. Rawlings grew up here in Brookland until she went off to college at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A writer, Rawlings is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Yearling,” and her memoir, “Cross Creek.” In 1938, The Yearling was the best-selling novel in America and is considered a classic of American popular fiction. Her body of work includes short stories, novels and nonfiction works about life in the backwoods of Florida, where she lived as an adult. Ms. Rawlings has a Historic State Park named after her in Florida where she lived when she wrote The Yearling. In 2008 The United States Postal Service released a commemorative stamp in honor of Rawlings.
As you probably know, our neighborhood got its name when the land formerly owned by Colonel Jehiel Brooks started being developed into a formal neighborhood after the Civil War. The first subdivision of the Brooks Estate was recorded with the District of Columbia Surveyor in September 1887, which means this month marks the 125th Anniversary of the neighborhood of Brookland. This Saturday, Sept 29th, there will be a celebration of this milestone. This promises to be a real home-grown event, and I can’t wait. Here is a rundown of events:
10:00 Parade down 12th St. featuring Brookland kids, Langdon Dog Park Assn. dogs, the Greater Brookland Garden Club, (maybe a fire truck!) and more. The parade will start at 12th and Franklin and end at Turkey Thicket Rec Center (1100 Michigan Avenue, N.E.)
11:00 – 1:00 Picnic provided by the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA) , The Greater Brookland Garden Club, The Greater Brookland Business Association and the The Michigan Park Citizens Association. It is suggested that folks bring a blanket and are welcome to contribute a prepared dish. The picnic will be at the Turkey Thicket playground. There will be a moon bounce and other fun activities.
11:00 – 1:00 Tree Tour of the Brook’s Mansion Grounds by Casey Trees. Meet at the Mansion, 901 Newton St NE, and learn about the trees found on these historic Mansion grounds including pines, spruce, and southern magnolias. Register at the link above.
1:30 – 3:00 Walkingtown DC Tour of Brookland, focusing on the development of its black middle-class and will explore Brookland’s famous African-American luminaries. The tour meets and ends at St. Anthony’s School, (3400 12th St., NE). No reservations needed, but the tour will be cancelled if it rains.
Pearl Bailey was a Tony and Grammy award winner, and a former Brookland resident. Bailey began her career in the 1930s by singing and dancing in Philadelphia’s Black nightclubs. Around this time, she lived in Brookland for a short stint. Along her path to success, she toured with the USO performing for American troops during World War II. In 1959, she played the role of Maria in the film version of Porgy and Bess, starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. Bailey won her Tony award in 1968, as part of an all-black cast version of Hello, Dolly! with Cab Calloway. In 1975 President Ford appointed her as a special ambassador to the United Nations. In 1988 President Reagan awarded Bailey the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The first subdivision of the Brooks Estate was recorded with the District of Columbia Surveyor in 1887, which means 2012 marks the 125th Anniversary of the neighborhood of Brookland. The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA) , The Greater Brookland Garden Club, The Greater Brookland Business Association and the The Michigan Park Citizens Association are teaming up to celebrate this milestone on Saturday, September 29th from 12:00 noon – 2:00 PM at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center Playground (1100 Michigan Avenue, N.E.)
Festivities will include walking tours of Brookland places of note, a parade, moonbounce and a community picnic. More information to come. If you would like to volunteer or participate, attend the next meeting BNCA meeting on Tuesday, September 18th, 7:00 PM, at the Howard University School of Divinity, 1400 Shepherd Street, N.E. Here is a flyer for the Brookland Community Picnic.
I recently found out that the bridge I have been referring to as the “Michigan Avenue Bridge” is actually called the Charles Richard Drew Memorial Bridge. A DC native and surgeon, Dr. Drew was the first African-American to graduate from Columbia University’s medical school with a Doctor of Medical Science degree. Most notably, Drew pioneered techniques for preserving blood plasma that saved countless lives during World War II. I spoke with long-time area resident Ralph Bucksell, who vividly remembers when the bridge was dedicated in Dr. Drew’s name. He told me about the bridge’s marker so I decided to check it out. I took the photo below of the marker. It is mounted at the west end of the bridge across the street from Catholic U. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t recommend checking it for yourself unless you enjoy playing in traffic. It is very easy to miss, and is situated facing traffic. So your moment of private reflection better be limited to the seconds it takes for the light to change, and be prepared to speed-read. As I left the bridge and headed home, I pondered a few things. Why didn’t they at least place the marker facing the pedestrian walkway on the other side of the bridge? Why isn’t the bridge’s true name more widely used? What can be done to bring more awareness to the bridge’s true name? With the millions being poured into the Catholic U development, just steps away from the marker, wouldn’t it be great to overhaul the whole concept? I, for one, will be referring to it as the Drew Bridge from here on forward. The marker says the following:
Dr. Charles Richard Drew, 1904-1950
District of Columbia
athlete, scholar, surgeon, and
scientist whose discoveries in
blood preservation saved
thousands of lives.
One of our goals here at here at the Brookland Bridge is to discover and celebrate Brookland’s rich history. This is the first installment in a series of stories focusing on our neighborhood’s history.
At 1222 Kearney St. NE you can find the home Sterling Brown lived in from 1935 till his death in 1989. The Washington DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities placed this sign at the home to commemorate this famous poet, author and professor. Brown was a professor at Howard University for over 40 years. Although he spent the majority of his life here in Brookland, he is considered part of the Harlem Renaissance artistic movement. Brown’s academic and literary focus was African-American folk life, culture, and language. His 1932 book, Southern Road, produced the poem “Strong Men,” a groundbreaking poem about the Middle Passage of slavery, that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit during such horrid circumstances. Brown, and fellow authors/poets/folk life academics Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston are credited with elevating and revolutionizing how African-American “folk speech” is regarded. By moving beyond stereotypes to understand people and culture he infused his writings with a full, nuanced, reality-based folk aesthetic. Some of his notable students include Toni Morrison, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sowell, Ossie Davis, Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones) and Ralph Bunche – a fellow Brookland resident.