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It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Go-Go Swing--Duke & Chuck To Get Their Own Streets?

Two of D.C.'s greatest contributions to the history of American music may soon become an intersection near the heart of the old Black Broadway.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham is proposing to rename two streets in Shaw for Duke Ellington and Chuck Brown, creating the possibility that you could one day, as a prelude to a kiss, or if you just need some money, head over to the corner of Ellington Avenue and Chuck Brown Way. That would be at the current intersection of Seventh and T streets NW.

With some optimism that there might be an end to the excruciatingly long delay in renovating the decrepit remains of the Howard Theatre, and with Radio One preparing to build a new--and heavily city-subsidized--company headquarters over the Shaw-Howard University Metro station, Graham wants to send a signal that the next phase of Shaw's revival is ready to move forward.

Although it may seem as if the Howard has been an empty, sagging relic for decades, in fact, Chuck Brown and other go-go pioneers did play at the storied theater many times in its last years of operation. And of course Ellington lived in this city for 23 years. Alas, but for a high school and a bridge named in his honor, Washington has paid scant attention to one of its most extraordinary and devoted sons.

As I wrote back in 1999,

Not one of his houses has been protected by historic status. Of the six places where Ellington lived in Washington, at least four still stand, but none is open to the public. His birthplace on Ward Place in the West End is gone, razed to make way for a post office loading dock where the workers say they have never even noticed the Ellington commemorative plaque on the wall.

Hardly any of the clubs and theaters where he played have been preserved in any recognizable way. And nowhere in the city he called home is there even a statue of Ellington.

Naming a couple of blocks of a street won't fill that gap, but it's nonetheless a decent and worthy gesture.


By Marc Fisher |  October 24, 2007; 1:27 PM ET
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But God forbid they officially recognize Little Ethiopia.

Posted by: Anon | October 24, 2007 1:47 PM

Does this mean Chuck Brown will move back from PG County?

Posted by: Mike Licht | October 25, 2007 11:30 AM

CHUCK BROWN AND DUKE ELLINGTON deserves this recognition and frankly were are late. Since the city named the District Bldg. after a dude/closet gay, who committed suicide and left the city in financial ruins- john a. wilson- RENAME THE STREETS in honor of good men. My 2 sons were conceived from go-go and the sounds of Duke in the background. Thank you Jim G. even though I dislike what you represent with your personal lifestyle.

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