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African Americans made the U Street area (now a historic district) one of the city's most vibrant cultural, residential, and business districts. They first settled here during the Civil War, capitalizing on new streetcar lines that began running in 1862, inexpensive land, and the absence of residential segregation. By the 1920s African Americans had created institutions, businesses, and services that met the needs of area residents. By the 1940s it was the place to hear Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and many other great names in entertainment. By the 1960s U Street was a center of activism against legal segregation and racism. Today many of its historic structures are being preserved.

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