Prefrosh Preview: A bit of D.C. history so you don’t sound illiterate when talking to locals
Unlike our friends at Syracuse, Georgetown University is located in a real city, meaning chances of interacting with non-undergraduates, i.e. real people, are much greater. Vox recommends incoming freshmen accrue a vague history of D.C., for purposes of holding intelligible conversations with locals, as well as impressing the NSO-group with a slightly off-putting breadth of D.C. knowledge.
President George Washington initially set up shop in New York City. Lest the New Yorkers’ egos ballooned any bigger, the seat of government was moved to the banks of the Potomac. The move was perhaps also influenced by a political compromise over Alexander Hamilton’s financial policy, which placed the Bank of the United States in Philadelphia and the capital in D.C. The District’s location is proof that Congress once understood the term compromise, as Northern members were satisfied with a proximal business center and the Southern were sated with the capital in their backyard.
The Early Years
In 1791, President Washington chose the exact location for the District of Columbia: a swampy backwater area bordering Maryland and Virginia, near the towns of Arlington and Georgetown. Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a former military service man, was commissioned to draw up plans for the new city. His work included many of D.C.’s most iconic landmarks: Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument. In a turn of unsurprising Washington politics, L’Enfant was dismissed from his position, received a small sum of money for his labor, and died a poor man. D.C. continued to grow and expand, despite the Burning of Washington in August 1814, courtesy of the Brits.
A City Divided
Washington has always been a city divided strongly along racial lines. Prior to the Civil War, numerous African American slaves and free blacks lived in the city. Racial tension grew in D.C. alongside rising tension nationwide. The unrest erupted with the Snow Riot in 1835, where whites began attacking blacks. In 1862, slavery was officially abolished in DC.
Washington saw a continuance in racial tension into the 20th century, with race riots in the Red Summer of 1919 and again in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To this day, Washington faces problems of gentrification and socioeconomic inequalities throughout the city, such as race-tainted arrests for marijuana possession. Vox believes Ben & Jerry’s has been trying to address the issue without leaving a bad taste in our mouths.
The City So Far
With the passing of each major war in the 20th century, Washington has experienced soaring population growth. Major public works such as the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, and the Lincoln Memorial were completed in the early 20th century. The Smithsonian Institution, established for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” continues to offer excellent museums free of charge (for all you cheap and adorably nerdy dates out there). Memorials like the beautiful FDR Memorial, experienced by many on their wet and wild 8th grade D.C. trips, were opened to the public in the 1990s.
Today, Washington’s population is estimated to be around 630,000 people, with a forecast of 250,000 new residents in the next 20 years. D.C. has been recently ranked the 3rd best U.S. city not to have kids and the 3rd most educated U.S. city. So all you young professionals, political junkies, social activists and future POTUS-es, welcome to Washington, D.C. You’ve come to the right place.