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The combination of jazz and bootleg booze was an irresistible force in Prohibition-era Washington, and nowhere in town was the music hotter or the drinks more plentiful than in Shaw. The clubs and theaters on U Street, N.W., dubbed the city’s “Black Broadway,” drew audiences to hear headliners like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and D.C.-born Duke Ellington.
Join author and local historian Garrett Peck on a walking tour that focuses on Shaw during this colorful era. It begins at the legendary Howard Theatre, the cultural centerpiece of neighborhood, then heads to the sites of several 1920s clubs along U Street, including the Club Caverns (now Bohemian Caverns), Club Bali, Murray’s Palace Casino, and the Minnehaha Theatre (later the location of another landmark, Ben’s Chili Bowl).
Along the way, learn about the city’s race riot of 1919, the unusual tale of a policeman-turned-bootlegger, and the African American artists, performers, and poets who turned this neighborhood into a vaunted nightlife scene rivaled only by Harlem.
Any excursion through a 1920s entertainment mecca wouldn’t be complete without a beverage, so raise a post-walk glass to the glories of Shaw’s past at Right Proper Brewing.
Peck is the author of Prohibition in Washington, DC: How Dry We Weren’t and the recent Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C.
Meet in front of the Howard Theatre, 620 T Street, N.W. at 6 p.m.; the tour involves 1.5 miles of walking; bring a Metro card for portions that use the subway.