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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.
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.
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
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.
'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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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).