The Merchants of H Street: Tales From The Next Gentrification Front


| October 10, 2000


The Merchants of H Street: Tales From The Next Gentrification Front, Kevin Diaz, Washington City Paper
Back in the segregated days of Washington D.C., H Street was a thriving black business district anchored by the Atlas Theater, a movie house-cum-live theater that helped create a common ground between blacks and whites in the city. However, suburbanization and the 1968 race riots left the once-thriving street with a panoply of boarded-up and abandoned storefronts. 'Today,' writes Kevin Diaz of the Washington City Paper, 'H Street is poised uncomfortably at the precipice of Washington's new racial chasm, less overt than the outright discrimination of old: the divide over gentrification. And the issue over what to do with the Atlas, shuttered since the early 1970s and now decrepit, is driving a wedge between many blacks and whites.' The debate over the theater goes deeper to reveal racial tensions between the white preservationists who live south of H Street and want to revive live theatre at the Atlas and the black community activists to the north who want to convert the Atlas into a roller rink for their children. -- Anjula Razdan
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