The U Street beat

It’s a place of classic jazz and alternative rock, ’20s photographs and abstract art, warm colors and cool atmosphere. It’s where old-time groove meets undercover hip. It is what they call U Street – one of the most culturally rich niches in D.C.

The scene dates back to the days of segregation when black musicians and entertainers graced its nightspots as a regular stop on the so-called Chitlin’ circuit.

Renowned artists such as Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and John Coltrane all performed there, many of them sharing the Club Bali and Howard Theater stages.

People enjoyed the live concerts into the wee hours of the morning, as blacks and whites intermingled to appreciate the good music.

“Despite the fact that the city was extremely segregated racially, this was a place where everybody came,” remarked historian Jane Levey. “It was really an exciting destination for music.”

After the 1968 riots and delayed Metro construction, the U-Street corridor went through a long period of dormancy. Nightclubs closed, buildings emptied and activity on the scene came to a virtual halt. Fortunately, U Street’s colorful history was not forgotten.

In the 1990s, a rebirth took place with the emergence of nighttime hangouts like the Republic Gardens and Club U. 

Today, bars and restaurants such as HR-57, Twins Jazz, Caf