From their beginnings, black churches have been political by necessity, from the abolitionist movement to the civil rights movement. DC’s churches are no exception. But over the past two decades, black church congregations in the district have begun to disappear. This video explores the role that gentrification is playing in the region’s black churches.
In 2000, DC’s population was 59% Black. By the 2020 census, Latino and Asian representation had jumped to 11.3% and 4.8%, respectively. Black residents now make up 41% of the city. Additionally, the cost of living and property values have skyrocketed as gentrification has taken root in DC. Other cities are seeing similar declines in their black populations, but DC’s transformation has been the most dramatic. Today, the median household income of white residents is more than three times the median income of black residents in the city. A POLITICO analysis found the area comprising Logan Circle and Shaw has seen a combined loss of 7,280 black residents over the past 20 years.
It’s a change that Reverend William H. Lamar IV witnessed first-hand as pastor of the historic Metropolitan AME Church near the White House, the oldest operating black church in the city. Civil rights icons, such as Frederick Douglass in 1894, gave speeches at this shrine. When Rosa Parks died in 2005 at age 92, Oprah Winfrey, the late Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), and the late actress Cicely Tyson attended her memorial service.