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1975 - Present African American History in Greenbelt

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Despite the successes of the Civil Rights movements, integration/desegregation did not occur overnight. Controversies over the practice of bussing, government-mandated racial quotas, and open enrollment in local schools were present in Greenbelt from 1972 on. Greenbelt was similar to many places across the U.S. in that residents mostly welcomed their new African American neighbors but prejudices continue to exist. As the DC metro area continued to grow and push farther into the suburbs, Greenbelt residents feared that "big city problems" could overwhelm their small cooperative community. And unfortunately, deep-seated prejudiced thinking across America, as well as government-sanctioned practices such as redlining have erroneously linked African Americans to crime, drugs, and poverty for many decades. 

 

Demographics in Prince George's County changed rapidly in the 1980s. In 1980 Census data shows that the county was 59% white; 37% Black. In 2010 Census data showed that the county was 27% white; 64% Black. Although tensions still exist, Greenbelters have shown through words and actions that they are committed to the same values of community and cooperation that Greenbelt was originally founded upon. 

Councilmembers pictured left to right:

[back row] Ric Gordon, Silke Pope, Colin Byrd, Rodney Roberts

[front row] Judith Davis, Emmett Jordan, Kristen Weaver

We are deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Councilmember Ric Gordon on November 26, 2023.

One of the areas in which Greenbelt has made great strides in is the diversification of its elected governing bodies. In 2009, Greenbelt elected its first African American councilmember, Emmett Jordan. In 2011, Jordan was elected Mayor of Greenbelt. Since then, Greenbelt has elected three other African American officials: Councilmember Colin Byrd (who also served one term as mayor), Councilmember Ric Gordon, and the newly appointed Councilmember Danielle McKinney.

Diverse representation is paramount in hearing and meeting the needs of all of Greenbelt's residents. And civic involvement is the other half of that equation. As John F. Kennedy said in his 1961 inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

From the Archives of the Greenbelt News Review 

We Need You!

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A young Greenbelter explores the typewriter in the Museum house while visiting with a school group. 

As a lasting legacy of the 75th Anniversary of the City of Greenbelt, and in an effort to answer some of the questions we have about segregation and integration here, the Greenbelt Museum established an ongoing Archive of the African American Experience in Greenbelt in 2012. We need your help to make it successful. 

If you would like to share information, photographs, memories, or oral histories, please contact the Museum by calling 301-507-6582 or sending an email to director@greenbeltmuseum.org.

Additional Resources

FACT SHEET

African American History in Greenbelt

BLOG POSTS

Black History Month

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