Check out the City Within a City audio tour hosted by NPR's Korva Coleman!

Learn about the history of U Street, find fun places to shop, and great places to eat at the Greater U Street Visitor Center

Follow the signs on this self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail to learn more about Washington's Greater U Street neighborhood, where a nationally significant, self-sufficient African American community flourished in the early 20th century.

City Within a City: Greater U Street Heritage Trail's 14 poster-sized, illustrated signs combine storytelling with historic images. Discover the history of this neighborhood celebrated for nurturing national and international leaders in civil rights, law, science, and the arts.

The first sign is located at 13th and U Streets, NW, near the U Street/Cardozo/African American Civil War Memorial Metro stop. The 90-minute, self-guided tour loops through the Greater U Street Historic District and ends at 14th and U streets, NW.

Walkers are encouraged to follow the trail at their own pace, sampling neighborhood character, businesses, and restaurants along the way.

For more information, email us at Trail@CulturalTourismDC.org or call 202-661-7581.


For the first half of the 20th century, this neighborhood inspired and sustained the rich social, civic, and cultural life of Washington's African American community. During the years of segregation, U Street was Washington's "Black Broadway" and the heart of African American business and culture.

Here people of color responded with strength to the injustices of segregation, engaging in some of the nation's first civil rights protests while simultaneously building a vibrant urban center of their own – "a city within a city."

Located near the famed Howard University, the neighborhood was home to Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. Its theaters and clubs hosted the brightest lights in American jazz — Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Sarah Vaughn, and Jelly Roll Morton, to name a few.

African American leaders in science, law, education, and the arts also walked these streets: Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Charles Drew, Langston Hughes, and the opera star Madame Evanti.

Along the way you will see many of the places they knew and loved, including:

  • The first African American YMCA, now the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage
  • The Whitelaw Hotel, the segregated capital's first luxury hotel for African Americans
  • The revived Bohemian Caverns, where the Ramsey Lewis Trio recorded the album "In Crowd"
  • The restored Lincoln Theatre

In addition, the trail features a wide variety of Victorian architecture, much of which was designed by black architects, and Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park with its dramatic water cascade.

This neighborhood is alive today with great jazz, dining, and shops.


Trail booklets providing additional information are available for free at the following local merchants and organizations:

  • Ben's Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, NW
  • Emma Mae Gallery, 14th and U Streets, NW
  • Historical Society of Washington, D.C., 801 K Street, NW
  • Islander Caribbean Restaurant, 1201 U Street, NW
  • Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street, NW
  • Urban Essentials, 1330 U Street, NW
  • Washingtoniana Division, Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW


Download the trail map pdf.

Download the trail booklet pdf.

Download the Spanish trail booklet pdf.

You can also order your guide in paper format (English version or Spanish version)! A $5 shipping and handling fee applies


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