The D.C. Statehood Party Committee was formed in 1969 to redress the inequity that Washington residents were not able (and still are unable) to exercise their full rights as citizens because they live in a federal district controlled by the U.S. Congress that does not have voting representation in Congress. The multiracial committee concluded that the District of Columbia should become a state. Rev. Jesse Anderson, Rev. Doug Moore, and Chuck Stone, then editor of the Afro-American, first proposed statehood for DC in a March 1969 news conference. Their manifesto used language embraced by civil rights and black power advocates: “Statehood for the District of Columbia is a natural right which can no longer be denied and must be achieved by whatever means necessary by the people.” A year later, Julius Hobson adopted the idea as the central theme in his campaign for a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the DC Statehood Party was launched.
Julius Hobson (1922-1977) and Josephine Butler (1920-1997) stand out as leaders in the movement. Hobson, born in Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Tuskegee Institute. After serving a stint in the army during World War II (1939-1945), he moved to Washington. From 1961 to 1964 he served as president of the Congress of Racial Equality. Between 1960 and 1964, he led more than 80 picket lines in front of approximately 120 downtown retail stores, resulting in employment for some 5,000 African Americans. He initiated a campaign that resulted in the first hiring of black bus drivers by DC Transit, forerunner to Metrobus. Hobson and CORE forced the hiring of the first black auto salesmen and dairy employees in the city. He directed campaigns against housing discrimination, protesting at private apartment buildings and in front of the District Building. He conducted a "lie-in" at Washington Hospital Center, which led to a jail term but helped end segregation in hospitals here. In 1967, after a very long court battle that left him deeply in debt, he won a lawsuit that outlawed the existing rigid track system, teacher segregation, and unfair distribution of books and supplies in DC Public Schools. In 1969 he was elected as a member of the DC Board of Education in the first such election for any public office in the 20th century. It was Hobson's campaign for the 1971 congressional non-voting delegate seat as a Statehood Party candidate that propelled the Statehood Party into broader awareness and created a viable third party in the city, although he lost to Walter Fauntroy. In 1974 Hobson was elected to the City Council on the Statehood ticket.
Josephine Butler, a Statehood movement founder, served as chair of the Statehood Party in 1977 and remained a staunch advocate until her death 20 years later. Born in Brandywine, Maryland, Butler moved to Washington in the 1940s. As a laundry worker she helped to organize laundry employees in the city. After the local Bolling v. Sharpe case ended racially separate schools in Washington in 1954, Butler was instrumental in joining the Adams and Morgan elementary schools into one. Butler was also a major park and environmental advocate who led Washington Parks & People at the time of her death. The Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th Street, NW, honors her memory.
The Statehood Party, now known as the Statehood Green Party, continues to work for DC rights.
DC Public Library, “Our Road to Self-Government” exhibit text, n.d.
Faye P. Haskins, “The Art of D.C. Politics,” Washington History, 12-2, (fall/winter 2000-2001): 46-63.
Sam Smith, Captive Capital: Colonial Life in Modern Washington (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974).
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