African American History in Greenbelt

The Resettlement Administration's earliest plans for the land that would become Greenbelt included an area called the Rossville Rural Development, which was to be lived on and farmed by African American families. However, in the climate of strict segregation in Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland, these controversial plans were quickly dropped. Additionally, although Greenbelt was a relief project built by both African American and white workers, because of segregation, only white families would be accepted to move into the experimental town. There were two other New Deal communities in the mid-Atlantic region built for African American families, Langston Terrace in Washington, D.C. and Aberdeen Gardens near Newport News, Virginia; but Greenbelt, Maryland would remain an all-white community for several decades.

Inevitably, at the Greenbelt Museum, when staff and docents explain Greenbelt’s segregated history, the next question from visitors is, “When did Greenbelt become integrated in terms of race?” We know that there was a Citizens for Fair Housing group active here beginning in 1963, but to the best of our knowledge so far, African American families did not begin moving into Greenbelt until the late 1960s. In researching this exhibition, we have realized that we have many, many more questions than answers.

As a lasting legacy of the 75th Anniversary of the City of Greenbelt, and in an effort to answer some of the many 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.

Please stay tuned as we will be adding to this page over the course of the next year. 

African American relief workers on site at the Greenbelt project. Greenbelt Museum Collection

FACT SHEET

African American History in Greenbelt

This map designates space for rural development (lower left corner) which may have been where planners hoped to establish the Rossville Rural Development, an area to be occupied and farmed by African American families. This portion of the plan was dropped early on, however, as it was considered too controversial, and the small farms were never built. Had they been established, they would have supplied the residents with locally grown food, which was in keeping with the original idea of a garden city.

 

This archive is part of the Greenbelt Museum's ongoing effort to increase awareness of Greenbelt's segregated past, to emphasize the research being done into local African American history, and ideally to offer a forum where discussions about race, diversity, and equity can take place. 

Visitor Information

Historic House

The Historic House is OPEN Sunday, Nov. 10

10B Crescent Rd.

Greenbelt, MD 20770

Open Sundays 1-5pm

Admission $5 or under

Contact us to visit or book  tours on other days!

Exhibition Gallery

 

Lenore Thomas Straus Exhibit

Greenbelt Community Center

15 Crescent Rd. 

Greenbelt, MD 20770

Open M-Sat 9am-10pm, 

Sundays 10am-7pm

Greenbelt Museum Office


15 Crescent Road

Greenbelt, Maryland 20770

301-507-6582 

info@greenbeltmuseum.org

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Preserving and sharing the New Deal history of an experimental planned community built by FDR in suburban Maryland in 1937 and still thriving today.