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Chocolate CityA History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital$
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Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469635866

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469635866.001.0001

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Perfect for Washington

Perfect for Washington

Marion Barry and the Rise and Fall of Chocolate City, 1979–1994

(p.390) Thirteen Perfect for Washington
Chocolate City

Chris Myers Asch

George Derek Musgrove

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter opens with the sense of hope, optimism, and possibility that many D.C. residents shared in the early years of Mayor Marion Barry’s administration. Black activists and their allies who entered local government in the late 1970s changed the very nature of city government, decoupling it from the federal bureaucracy and making it more representative of the city’s diverse population. They also redistributed wealth, building a large black working and middle class through public jobs and city contracts. Yet the man whom many District residents entrusted with their hopes ultimately let them down. Barry cozied up to big developers and used public programs to buy political allegiance, while several of his aides and friends took advantage of the disorganized bureaucracy and city contracting system to pad their wallets. Barry’s failures made the very people that he had worked his entire political career to help more susceptible to the crack epidemic. As violence soared and city services deteriorated, the residents most in need suffered most of all, and D.C. teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.

Keywords:   Marion Barry, City government, Developers, Bureaucracy, Crack epidemic, Home rule

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