Contested Play and Clean Water: McMillan Park, Race, and the Built Environment in Washington, D.C., 1900-1941
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This study focuses on the intersection of the politics and culture of open public space with race relations in the United States from 1900 to 1941. The history of McMillan Park in Washington, D.C. serves as a lens to examine these themes. Ultimately, the park’s history, as documented in newspapers, interviews, reports, and photographs, reveals how white residents attempted to protect their dominance in a racial hierarchy through the control of both the physical and cultural elements of public recreation space. White use of discrimination through seemingly neutral desires to protect health, safety, and property values, establishes a congruence with their defense of residential property. Without similar access to legal methods, African Americans acted through direct action in gaps of governmental control. Their use of this space demonstrates how African-American residents of Washington and the United States contested their race, recreation, and spatial privileges in the pre-World War II era.