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

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
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