Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.

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9780671768461: Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.

Arguing that citizens of Washington, D.C., live without basic American rights, two respected Washington journalists show how the country's capital contains huge and often vicious contradictions and devastating race, class, and power problems.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Two veteran Washington journalists offer a vigorous and resonant portrait of the 30-year decline and polarization of our capital. Jaffe (of Washingtonian magazine) and Sherwood (of WRC-TV, formerly of the Washington Post) tell their story in episodic sketches, covering the city's historic caste system among blacks, the rise of community organizer (and, later, mayor) Marion Barry during the War on Poverty, and the shift of power to blacks after the traumatic 1968 riots. The authors criticize the long-standing federal stranglehold on the district, as well as the Post's ignorance of black Washington, but their major culprit is ``Boss Barry,'' who emerged in his second mayoral term (1982-6) as a betrayer of the biracial coalition that first elected him. Barry's failures were legion: political spoils for a narrow group of adventurers such as profiteer-from-the-homeless Cornelius Pitts; a top aide turned embezzler; a police department in disarray; a downtown that boomed as other neighborhoods crumbled. His defiance of the black bourgeoisie and the white power structure preserved his popularity among blacks, and when he was arrested on drug charges in 1990--an episode recounted in telling detail--his lawyer successfully argued that the government was out to get him. After serving a six-month jail term for one misdemeanor, Barry began a comeback as council member from the city's poorest ward. The authors criticize the current mayor, reformer Sharon Pratt Kelly, as out of touch, and warn that federal receivership for Washington is as likely as full home rule and statehood. Reliance on dialogue-rich scenes sometimes sacrifices depth for drama, but this is a memorable and disturbing reminder of much unfinished urban business. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Journalists Jaffe and Sherwood, long-time Washington, D.C., residents, have covered that city's politics for many years. Their book is based on interviews with over 200 people (but not former mayor Marion Barry) and a variety of other sources, including congressional hearings and reports, police and court records, and journalistic accounts. While the book traces the history of the city from the Civil War to the present, its central reference point is the 1992 murder of Tom Barnes, a young intern for Alabama senator Richard Shelby, a few blocks from the Capitol and the racial turmoil that arose when the senator questioned the ability of the largely African American government to run the city. Tracing former mayor Barry's career from his civil rights activism to his drug conviction, the authors provide a highly unflattering portrait of his weaknesses for sex, drugs, and political corruption. For them, Barry symbolizes both the tension between civil rights activists and Washington's African American middle class and the promise and subsequent failure of the social programs of the 1960s. Of interest to scholars of civil rights history, urban history, and political science; recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
William Waugh Jr., Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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