Home Rule Then. Statehood Now!


History is our greatest teacher when we know the whole story. As we transition from celebrating Black History Month to Women’s History Month, championing the intersection of this history as a precursor to the present day struggle for D.C. statehood brings into focus the movement’s pivotal role to the social justice issues of today. 

It is this history, particularly that of the Home Rule movement, that we examined as the source for our “Home Rule Then. Statehood Now!” capsule.


The 1966 Home Rule Day rally (July 17, 1966) at the National Mall was the catalyst of our inspiration. Drawing 32 speakers and approximately 4,000 people, attendees heard from notable advocates including Richard Claxton "Dick" Gregory, civil rights activist and comedian,who said, "You can't laugh your problems away." Senator Wayne Morse further stated that home rule legislation at the time offered the "opportunity to strike a blow for human dignity which we cannot afford to reject." Looking back at the few black and white photos available, we pulled ideas from a variety of campaign signs at the rally. 

 One photo in particular taken that day, featured in the Washington Star, depicts three young women at the rally sitting on the grass at the National Mall. The woman in the forefront holds a pennant banner which reads 'Home Rule Now Washington, D.C. 1966’.




We recreated that banner as the graphic featured on the front of “Home Rule Then. Statehood Now!” t-shirt and crewneck sweatshirt. The large print featured on the back is a reinterpretation of a combination of signs carried by marchers at the rally. This capsule is in recognition of this lesser known moment in the statehood movement. Using our medium of fashion, we want to bring awareness not only of this moment, but also amplify the ordinary women - Black women - that have done extraordinary things; oftentimes leading movements that they ultimately are the last to benefit from. 

Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory leading Southwest residents at Home Rule Day on the National Mall - Jul.. 17, 1966

The historical legacy for representation of D.C.’s residents via the Home Rule and Statehood movements is interwoven with the Civil Rights Movement, Black suffrage, and Women’s suffrage. Black women were instrumental in advocating for universal suffrage and equal representation in the 19th and 20th century and continue to be a force of political power in America today. 

Members of the American Federation of Teachers demonstrate in support of home rule - Jan. 1, 1967

From assembling church functions, attending political conventions, organizing meetings, forming political societies, to planning strategies towards gaining the right to vote, Black women have traditionally exerted their influence in American  politics to the greater benefit of the Nation.

Despite facing the patriarchy, sexism, and racism of white supremacy so deeply rooted at the core of American democracy — Black women leaders past and present such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Coretta Scott King, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Rep. Cori Bush, Rep. Jasmine Crockett; to Black Panthers Elaine Brown, Ericka Huggins, Frances Beal, Fredricka Newton, and Kathleen Cleaver; to D.C. 's Nannie Helen Borroughs, Mary Church Terrell, Anise Jenkins, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Councilmember At-Large Christina Henderson, Councilmember At-Large Anita Bonds, Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, to D.C. Votes - Kelsye Adams, have all been a part of the legacy of advocacy and activism for the rights, freedoms, protection and representation of Black people and liberty for Washingtonians.

Black women have been formidable in social justice movements from before the founding of the United States but faced opposition even from within the movements they’ve fought so passionately for. Even now the contributions of Black women in politics, activism, and advocacy lack the broader acknowledgement of their accomplishment. While amazing strides have been made by the likes of those forementioned, these Black women and countless others are still largely under-recognized, under celebrated, and in some cases under attack. Longtime activists such as Anise Jenkins-Executive Director of Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. (Free D.C.) have made it their life’s work in pursuit of statehood. 

Deeper knowledge of the Black Liberation, Women’s Equality, Civil Rights and the D.C. Statehood movements and how they are all interconnected and historically linked to other watershed social justice moments, is necessary to dismantle white supremacy and counter the actions of those in power acting to turn back time in America. Republican lawmakers in a number of states have even taken steps to deny the teaching of this full history through defunding education programs, outlawing curriculum, and banning books. 

The present day struggle for D.C. Statehood persists as racism and white supremacy persists as the primary obstacle to progress. Republican politicians continue to deny resolutions that would modernize American democracy and put total control of the District’s affairs in the hands of its citizens. D.C. Statehood is not only for full representation of Washingtonians but also the pathway forward for every citizen to be afforded the American ideal of liberty and justice for all.

Students demonstrate their support for home rule at a rally in front of the District Building - Oct. 3, 1973


A donation of $3.51 from every t-shirt and $6.51 of every sweatshirt sold will go to dcvotearchive.org / @dcvote in support of their mission. Founded in 1998, DC Vote is a national citizen engagement and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and securing equality for all in the District of Columbia. 



Learn more about the legacy of  civil rights leaders and activists - both past and present - from “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry and luminary Coretta Scott King to Yaddiya and Kelsye Adams of Long Live GoGo, and their contributions to the history of D.C.’s Home Rule and Statehood movements:

Up from the People: Protest and Change in D.C. 


We priced the items in this capsule to be accessible; as spreading greater awareness of advocacy for D.C. Statehood holds more value than a profit margin. There’s also significance in the price itself, with the t-shirt pricing at $32 - representing the 3 stars and 2 bars of the D.C. flag; the crewneck sweatshirt at $66 - representing the year of the Home Rule Day Rally of 1966 and the .51 cents symbolizing D.C.’s push to become the 51st State in the Union.


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