BLACK AND WHITE IN BROOKLAND: The Legacy of Housing Covenants


In November of 1945, Ada Reeves bought a charming little bungalow at 1303 Kearny St. NE in Brookland. She expected to move in without any problems, but instead was sued by her neighbors. The cause? The color of her skin. Ada Reeves was African American, and her new home’s deed contained a covenant that said the house was not to be sold to a black person.

In the early 1900s, Washington DC was still largely a white city. Whites could buy houses and live in any neighborhood they chose. African Americans, on the other hand, were restricted to just a few neighborhoods - Anacostia, Shaw, and some other enclaves primarily in the NE and SE quadrants. Racially-restrictive housing covenants were designed to keep white neighborhoods white and keep others out.

Covenants were riders attached to house deeds, regulating to whom the home could be sold. Usually they were for individual houses, but other times entire blocks or even neighborhoods could enter into such agreements. Jews, Mexicans, Persians, Armenians and other ethnic groups were all targets of those covenants, but no people were singled out more than African Americans. 

LOCAL LORE: Some Old Time Football

Remember when football was great here in Washington? It seems like a long time ago now. And there was a time when our local university team, the CUA Cardinals, was one of the best in the nation. That was back in 1936, when the Cardinals (often known as the Flying Cardinals) played in only the second Orange Bowl. They represented the North, and the University of Mississippi represented the South.  CUA jumped out to a 20-6 lead, but then Ole Miss came back strong, scoring 13 points late in the game.  A missed point after touchdown for Mississippi was the critical difference.  Three thousand fans awaited the victorious Flying Cardinals when they arrived at Union Station, followed by a victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.  The Washington Post reported that President Roosevelt unwittingly joined the parade when it jammed traffic in front of the White House as he was going to church.  Here the team poses on the steps of Mullen Library.

 Catholic University Orange Bowl team. Courtesy Catholic University of America Archives. 

Coach Arthur "Dutch” Bergman (seated at far right in top row), in addition to a good reputation within the college ranks, also knew a good number of pro players, especially those with the ‘Skins. In 1939 he brought two of them to CUA to work with his squad during the season. Both of them turned out to be future hall of famers. 

© Robert Malesky 2017