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the District over a year and a half before the Fourteenth

11 Amendment was added to the Constitution.

During the post-Civil War period, District blacks, led by

Frederick Douglass, made some progress in promoting legislation

which expoused racial equity.

The City Council passed laws

prohibiting racial discrimination in public places in the late

1860's and early 1870's. These laws, however, were largely

12 ignored until the 1950's.

The plight of blacks in the district deteriorated in the

late nineteenth century. They found it nearly impossible to rise above the lowest ranks of jobs offered by the city government.

In the private sector, black professionals could not develop a

13 sizeable patronage and unions barred them from membership. The

federal government did nothing to help District blacks; it tolerated segregation, hired few blacks except at the lowest levels, and ignored Washington's expanding slums.

Racial unrest came to a head in 1919 when white servicemen

attacked a group of blacks: That. attack led to five days of rioting and thirty-nine deaths. 14

It became all too clear that

despite civil rights legislation, segregation and discrimination

worsened in both public and private areas.

111d. at 58.
121d. at 59-60.
13 Id. at 60.

Schrag, supra note 5 at 12.

Progress in civil rights and on the issue of

self-determination was slow in the 1950's and 60's because the congressional committees that governed the District were

relatively insensitive to these issues.

However, despite

congressional resistance to home rule, President Johnson made

some progress for District residents in the early 1960's when he

declared the District a federal agency and appointed a Mayor and City Council for the District. 15

The House District Committee at that time was dominated by

Southern Whites. Representative John McMillan of South Carolina chaired the committee from 1948 to 1972. During his reign, bills

to implement home rule in the District of Columbia invariably died in committee.


McMillan lost his bid for reelection in

1972. 17

McMillan's defeat marked the beginning of a new, more

promising era for progress on the home rule issue. Cari 'Albert, the. Speaker of the House, took up the cause, as did many citizens' groups. In 1973; their: collective efforts ripened into

fruition when Congress finally passed a bill granting the

18 District limited home rule.


Sid. at 13.
16Smith, supra note 7 at 142-43.

'Schrag, supra note 5 at 13.

See District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, Pub. L. No. 93-198, 87 Stat. 774 (1973).

Nevertheless, the provisions of the bill fell far short of

full self-determination.

The District was allowed to elect a

Mayor and City Council, levy taxes, float bond issues, and assume

control over several areas of government authority formerly

19 controlled by federal agencies. Yet Congress imposed many

limitations on these powers.

Congress could still pass

legislation for the District by means of riders on appropriations

bills and other similar techniques. Furthermore, Congress could restrict or abolish the new limited home rule at any time. 20

Even before the Home Rule Act was passed in 1973, a

statehood movement had already begun in the District.

In 1969,

Julius Hobson, a prominent civil rights leader in the District,

founded the Statehood Party.

And while the Home Rule Act took

some of the steam out of the statehood movement, as most local

politicians set about the more mundane task of trying to derive

benefits from the new limited home rule, the movement did not

die. 21,

m. Although the District was more populous than four states, the idea of statehood was dismissed by most local politicians who

doubted that Congress would seriously consider admitting a black, urban state into the Union. 22. Ever persistent, the District of


See Smith, supra note 7 at 166. 20.

See Id. at 166-67; Schrag, supra, note 5 at 13-14. 21 See Schrag, supra note 5 at 15.


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reminiscent of the 19th century City Council attack on black

23 suffrage. It becomes hard to avoid the belief that much of the

opposition to statehood (in the District and in the country at large) comes from whites who fear that statehood for the District

24 of Columbia will give blacks too much power.

Now that I have discussed some of the political history of

the District, I want to respond to the questions put to me last

month by Mr. Fauntroy, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Fiscal

Affairs and Health.

Indeed, the five questions he posed are ones

that are continuously raised as the matter of statehood is


The first question is:

What steps must Congress take

to pass a statehood bill for the (non-federal part of the]

District of Columbia?

The Constitution says •that "New States may be admitted by s.

the Congress into this Union


This provision gives

Congress immense discretion in deciding whether to admit new

states; however, "neither house of Congress has ever voted to

reject or deny admission to the Union by any state which had

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petitioned it. 26

Congressional action for admitting states depends, in some respects, on the method the proposed state utilizes to seek admission. Proposals for statehood have

typically made use of one of the following five methods in seeking admission to the Union:


A direct act of Congress, without preliminaries.


A joint resolution of Congress, dealing with a foreign



The passage of an enabling act, followed by the
drafting and ratification of a constitution.
Prior preparation of a constitution by the people of


the area seeking admission, without Congressional

sanction, followed by a request for Congressional

approval, through an act of admission.

5) Prior action by the people on the assumption that they

27 could enter into the Union as of right. The residents of the District of Columbia have chosen to pursue statehood by method four: Prior preparation of constitution by i.

the people of the area.

Regardless of the procedures a state

follows in seeking admission into the Union, however, Congress

26 Davila-Colon, Equal citizenship, Self-Determination and the U.S. Statehood Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis, 13 Case W. Res, 315, 317 (1981) (hereinafter cited as Equal Citizenship).


Park, Admission of States and the Declaration of Independence, 33 Temp. L.Q. 403, 405 (1960).

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