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The people against the United States Congress

Reginald Booker and Sammie Abbott are second only to Pierre L’Enfant in their influence on Washington D.C.’s urban development, and they were neither architects nor civil engineers. I would happily watch an HBO/Apple TV+ miniseries about their fight with the congressmen who wanted to pave over the capital with miles and miles of highway. I mean, just look at them:

Exhibit A: Sammie Abbott (left) and Reginald Booker testifying against the freeways in 1969 (photo from the Evening Star).

Black and white photo of a bespectacled elderly Arab man and a younger  African American man wearing sunglasses and a denim jacket sitting behind a desk. The older man is talking emphatically with his right arm raised while the younger is looking down at their desk. There is an audience and a row of security guards in the background.

The Man they were fighting against was Rep. William Houston Natcher (D), chair of an Appropriations subcommittee which wanted to flood the District with money in a cash for concrete program. And again, a picture here is worth more than a thousand words:

Exhibit B: William H. Natcher (right) at the Great American Villains' Convention, circa 1971.

Black and white photo of an elderly white man standing next to a smiling Richard Nixon

Thanks to Booker and Abbott’s good work, DC now has a semi-functional metro under an agglomeration of vibrant, interconnected, walkable neighborhoods, instead of a completely dysfunctional and congested freeway system criss-crossing a checkerboard of destroyed city blocks, à la Baltimore. The Washington Post wrote about the pair a couple of decades ago, and the story is engrossing as ever. Someone, anyone, please forward it to David Simon.

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