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DC History & Local Area Studies

This guide recommends resources about the history, local government, and current situation in Washington, D.C.

DC History Books


Not all resources listed below are located at the American University Library.

Books not at AU may be ordered through consortium or interlibrary loan.
Many of these titles are also available at the D.C. Public Library.

Selected General Works
(Click on the title to link to AU's catalog)

Know the District of Columbia, 2015 edition.
League of Women Voters of D.C.

City of Magnificent Intentions: A History of Washington, District of Columbia 2nd ed.
Melder, Keith E. (ed.)

Washington : A History of the Capital, 1800-1950
Green, Constance M.

City of Washington: An Illustrated History
Junior League of Washington.

A to Z of Washington, D.C.  (revised paperback edition of the Historical Dictionary of Washington, D.C)
Benedetto, Robert et al.

Records — Columbia Historical Society (Now known as the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.)
Papers read before the Society 1895-1989
Full text in the database JStor.

Washington History: Magazine of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
(formerly Records of the Columbia Historical Society) Full text in the database JStor.

Neighborhood Histories

Anacostia Story, 1608-1930
Hutchinson, Louise Daniel

Black Georgetown Remembered 1751-1990
Lesko, Kathleen (ed.)

Gentrification in Adams Morgan
Henig, Jeffrey

Tenleytown: Country Village into City Neighborhood 2nd edtion
Helm, Judith Beck

Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods
2010 edition
1988 edition
Smith, Kathryn S. Smith (ed.)

DC Voting Rights and National Representation Issues

Congress and the Governance of the Nation’s Capital : the Conflict of Federal and Local Interests
Charles Wesley

Home Rule or House Rule?

Hope and Delusion : Struggle for Democracy in the District of Columbia Richards, Mark David

Left with Few Rights: Unequal Democracy and the District of Columbia
Zigas, Eli

National Representation for the District of Columbia (discusses Retrocession to Maryland) 
Best, Judith

Democratic Destiny and the District of Columbia:  Federal Politics and Public Policy
(electronic book) Walters, Ronald and Toni-Michelle C. Travis, editors

Perspectives of political power in the District of Columbia : the views and opinions of 110 members of the local political elite / Harris, Charles W.  

Period Histories

Creation of Washington, D.C.
Bowling, Kenneth

Burning of Washington (War of 1812)
Pitch, Anthony

Southern City, National Ambition: The Growth of Early Washington, D.C., 1800-1860
Gillette, Howard

Reveille in Washington (Social history of Civil War Washington)
Leech, Margaret

Capital Elites: High Society in Washington, D.C. After the Civil War
Jacob, Kathryn Allamong

Ten Blocks from the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots of 1968
Gilbert, Ben W.

  Architecture, Art & Monuments

American Monument and Its Audience
Waterman, Roderick Clive

Best Addresses: A Century of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses
Goode, James M.

Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings, 2nd edition
Goode, James M.

George Washington : Man and Monument
Frank Freidel and Lonnelle Aikman.

Massachusetts Avenue Architecture
Commission of Fine Arts. Kohler, Sue A.

Sixteenth Street Architecture
Commission of Fine Arts. Kohler, Sue A.

Washington Sculpture (2nd edition, 2008)
Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. (1st edition, 1974)

Goode, James M.

White House: An illustrated architectural history
Patrick ; foreword by James Archer Abbott.

  City Planning

Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C.
Gillette, Howard

Building the Body Politic:  Power and Urban Space in Washington, D.C.
Farrar, Margaret E.

Worthy of the Nation: History of Planning for the National Capital 2nd edition
U.S.National Capital Planning Commission


D&B Regional Business Directory
Ready Ref HG 4058 .W3 D86

United States Government Manual
Ready Ref JK 421 .A3

Washington Information Directory
Ready Ref F 192.5 .W34

  Multicultural Washington

Washington Odyssey: A Multicultural History of the Nation's Capital. Rev. Edition
1996 editon entitled Urban Odyssey

Jews of Washington, D.C.
Altshuler, David

Guide to Black Washington: Places and Events of Historical and Cultural Significance in the Nation's Capital
Fitzpatrick, Sandra

Free Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1790- 1864
Brown, Letitia Woods

First Freed: Washington, D.C. in the Emancipation Era
Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth (ed.)

Neglected Neighbors:Stories of life in the alleys, tenements and shanties of the National Capital (1909)
Charles F. Weller

Colored Woman in a White World
Terrell, Mary Church

Alley Life in Washington, 1850-1970
Borchert, James

Leading the Race: The Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation's Capital, 1880-1920
Moore, Jacqueline

Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition
Barber, Lucy G.

Farther Along: A Civil Rights Memoir
Caplan, Marvin Harold

  Selected Authors of D.C. Fiction

Adams, Henry. Democracy

Clarke, Breena. River, Cross My Heart

Golden, Marita. Edge of Heaven  & others

Johnson, Haynes. The Landing.

Jones, Edward P. All Aunt Hagar’s Children

Jones, Edward P. Lost in the City

Pelecanos, George P. Night Gardener & others

DC Noir & DC Noir 2 stories edited by George P. Pelecanos 

Shreve, Susan Richards. Train Home & others

Tate, Allen. The Fathers

Twain, Mark. Gilded Age