Friends of Crummell School

History of Ivy City

The Alexander Crummell School is the heart of the historic Ivy City community in Northeast Washington, DC.

The Ivy City community is a small, close-knit community established by African Americans in 1872, along what was once the site of the National Fairgrounds, Ivy City Race Track and the B & O Railroad.  The Ivy City community established its Civic Association in 1911, the same year the Alexander Crummell Elementary School was completed to serve African American children.  For many years the community had a strong civic culture of community organization and advocacy, but over time the community was heavily impacted by outside forces such as unwanted industrial development, a proposed freeway, the closure of Crummell School in the early 1970’s, the drug epidemic, and other forms of blight.  Yet still today the community retains its close-knit send of place: Crummell School alumni still gather in fellowship, old Ivy City residents return to visit, and new residents are welcomed as the community works to win improvements, uplift the lives of current residents, and restore civic pride.  A key element of this effort is the desired restoration of the Alexander Crummell School, a historic landmark, for use as a community center housing recreational and educational programs for youth and adults.

The Alexander Crummell School is named for abolitionist, educator and clergyman Rev. Doctor Alexander Crummell whose life’s mission was the uplift of Black people.  The school was built in 1911 to serve African American children from the historic working-class community of Ivy City and neighboring Trinidad.  The school served as the civic heart of the community and as a site for recreational programs until around 1980.  Since that time the DC government has allowed the building to sit and rot, and depress its surrounding neighborhood.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and listed as one of DC’s Most Endangered Places by the DC Preservation League in 2013.  Residents of Ivy City have long been on record asking that their broken heart be repaired, and turned into a multi-use center to serve youth and elders.  

The unique history of the Ivy City community has been documented through the Ivy City Neighborhood & Oral History Project, and initiative of the grassroots organization Empower DC.  Oral histories have been transcribed and donated to the Washingtoniana Division of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library.  Excerpts of these interviews, as well as historic photos and narrative have been published the Ivy City History booklet which can viewed here.

A short documentary film about the community which centers on the role of the Alexander Crummell School can be viewed here.

For more perspectives on Ivy City and the vision for Crummell School, view these videos of resident interviews: