Chocolate City

A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital

By Chris Myers Asch, George Derek Musgrove

624 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, 1 map, 7 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3586-6
    Published: November 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3587-3
    Published: October 2017

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation’s capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America’s expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war, and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove also highlight the city’s rich history of local activism as Washingtonians of all races have struggled to make their voices heard in an undemocratic city where residents lack full political rights.

Tracing D.C.’s massive transformations--from a sparsely inhabited plantation society into a diverse metropolis, from a center of the slave trade to the nation’s first black-majority city, from “Chocolate City” to “Latte City”--Asch and Musgrove offer an engaging narrative peppered with unforgettable characters, a history of deep racial division but also one of hope, resilience, and interracial cooperation.

About the Authors

Chris Myers Asch is editor of Washington History and teaches history at Colby College.
For more information about Chris Myers Asch, visit the Author Page.

George Derek Musgrove is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
For more information about George Derek Musgrove, visit the Author Page.


"An ambitious, kaleidoscopic history of race and politics in Washington, D.C. . . . Essential American history, deeply researched and written with verve and passion."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[The authors] embrace the funk band Parliament’s moniker for the District of Columbia and deliver a narrative as grand as the city itself. . . . This enriching journey showcases the underappreciated saga of African-American success in the face of adversity.”--Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Asch and Musgrove brilliantly explore the important but overlooked story of the black struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy in our nation’s capital. Meticulously researched and carefully told, Chocolate City is a vital local history that demands and deserves a wide national audience.”--James Forman Jr., author of Locking Up Our Own

“In this epic history of politics and power in Washington, D.C., Asch and Musgrove take readers beyond the monuments to reveal how racism shaped the city from its origin. They also tell the stories of people who fought back, including abolitionists, students, immigrants and their descendants, government lawyers and accountants, and grassroots activists. This is an indispensable history of the capital that reflects major currents in the nation’s past.”--Kate Masur, Northwestern University

Chocolate City is exhaustively researched, offering a carefully reasoned examination of the numerous and complicated issues of race and class and their interplay in the constant clashes between competing and overlapping power centers. The authors' engagingly written, insightful, often brilliant analyses of these dynamics make this volume the definitive history of Washington, D.C.”-- Alfred A. Moss Jr., University of Maryland

“Asch and Musgrove view the history of the District of Columbia from the eighteenth century to the present through the eyes of its African American residents. Each crisply written paragraph bursts with fascinating insights, and each page brings to life the people and social movements that made Washington a proper place to live and not just the seat of government of the United States. With a rare combination of interpretive substance and accessible style, Chocolate City will quickly take its place among the classic studies of the nation’s capital.”--Joseph P. Reidy, Howard University