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The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is the combined legacy of four important Washington institutions of higher learning. Its roots reach back to 1851 when Myrtilla Miner, a white abolitionist and educator, founded a school for colored girls in Washington, DC. In 1879 Miner Normal School, a teacher training school, became part of the public school system. Two years later Washington Normal School was organized for white girls. It was renamed Wilson Normal School in 1913. In 1929 both schools became four-year teachers colleges and remained segregated: Miner Teachers College and Wilson Teachers College. These were the only public institutions of higher education until the 1960s. All other DC colleges and universities were privately operated and funded. One year after school desegregation became law in 1954 as a result of Brown v. Board of Education, Miner was combined with Wilson as the new District of Columbia Teachers College. In 1968 the District of Columbia established two more public colleges: Federal City College, to provide a comprehensive liberal arts education, and Washington Technical Institute, for technical training. In 1977 the three institutions — District of Columbia Teachers College, Federal City College, and Washington Technical Institute — were combined into the University of the District of Columbia. It maintains an open admissions policy for the residents of Washington, DC.

Among its research collections, UDC holds the collection of the jazz authority and radio personality Felix Grant (1918-1993). The collection features his broadcasts and interviews with jazz greats Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Mercer Ellington, Joao Giberto, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Horn, and many others, as well as his library of written and graphic materials.

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