DC Book of the Day_”Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, DC, 1994″
If you were to take a class in DC Political history 101, 1994’s Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C by NBC4’s long-time investigative reporter and local print contributor Tom Sherwood and the Washington Examiner and Washingtonian Magazine’s Harry Jaffee, is REQUIRED reading.
This is a timeless classic of city non-fiction documenting Marion Barry’s come up from a countrified ‘bama’ in mid 1960’s Washington to his current throne as the undisputed Mayor 4 Life. Sherwood and Jaffee weave a can’t put down narrative that takes you from the days of the 1967 Anacostia riots / 1968 citywide (and nationwide) riots and “Soul Brother” to the raw 80’s and early 90’s when 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,” according to Library Journal.
At times the stories and exploits of the Mayor 4 Life are unbelievable, but this extensively researched and thoroughly perceptive read reveals a hidden history that we must know and understand to synthesize contemporary city life.
From Publishers Weekly, “Elected mayor of Washington, D.C., in 1978, sharecropper’s son Marion Barry Jr., a leading civil rights activist, began a descent into cocaine and alcohol addiction and demagoguery that mirrored the racially polarized city’s decline. Jaffe, an editor of Washingtonian magazine, and WRC-TV political reporter Sherwood suggest that nearly two centuries of congressional domination of the capital, disenfranchisement and white racism have stunted local political traditions in Washington, creating a vacuum filled by power broker Barry. They blame the former mayor (sentenced in 1990 to six months in jail after a drug bust) for whipping up racial animosity, setting whites against blacks and scuttling a prime opportunity for advancing racial harmony. Their chronicle of the dream city turned urban nightmare sweeps from the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968, and the real estate boom and crack epidemic of the 1980s to the beleaguered administration of Barry’s successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly.“
Good luck finding a copy at the DC Public Library, Montgomery County Library, or PG County System. MLK Library’s Black Studies has reference copies as of last summer, but years of experience within DCPL have shown me a book like this might be in the “system” but hasn’t seen the inside of a DC library in years when the last copy grew legs and walked off and away into someone’s person library.
I managed to get my copy years ago at MLK Library’s sifting through the used books in the 1st floor lobby by the circulation desk. I paid $2. On Amazon.com, a new copy goes for $115, on the cheap.