On April 16, 1862, nine months before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, the U.S. Congress passed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, making the District of Columbia’s slaves the first freed in the nation. African Americans flocked to the District, where the nightlife became famous, and U Street was the thriving center for Black culture and social exchange.
Reportedly, iconic figures like Zora Neale Hurston and Mary McLeod Bethune found refuge in what became known as Black Broadway. Per-formers like Louis Armstrong and Billie Holliday were regulars.
And so was Madame Lillian Evanti. […]