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Joe Hairston interview part 1, 2016-11-15

Identifier: dcpl_220_004_01.mp3

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

Mapping Segregation in Washington DC: School and Neighborhood Desegregation in Ward 4 documents the transformation of Ward 4 neighborhoods and schools during the 1950s and early 1960s. Ward 4 was predominantly white in the early 1940s, but saw a shift in demographics as white families fled after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bolling v. Sharpe, in which public school segregation was deemed unconstitutional in the District of Columbia. This project primarily consists of interviews with longtime or former Ward 4 residents.


  • Other: 2016-11-15


Conditions Governing Access

The external hard drive DIG_BACKUP is for staff use only and contains preservation copies of this collection. This external hard drive is not publically accessible. Please see the digital collection in Dig DC for access to this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Henry Hairston was born in 1922 in Virginia. As a young adult, he became the U.S. Army’s first Black helicopter pilot. In 1954, Hairston bought a house for his family on the 1300 block of Kennedy Street NW, in what had been an exclusively white neighborhood. His children attended the formerly all-white neighborhood schools, West Elementary, MacFarland Junior High, and Roosevelt High School. In 1963, the family moved to Shepherd Park, where Hairston became an active member of Neighbors, Inc. and remained for the rest of his life. Hairston died in 2019. Hairston’s extended family and ancestors are the subject of Henry Wiencek’s 1999 book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White.


From the Collection: 6.25 Gigabytes

From the Collection: 50 Files

Language of Materials



In this interview, Hairston discusses his role in integrating the 1300 block of Kennedy Street NW in the mid-1950s and his move to D.C.’s Shepherd Park neighborhood in 1963, where he joined the efforts of Neighbors, Inc. to oppose blockbusting, racial steering, and other forms of racial discrimination in housing. He also discusses his daughters’ experiences in D.C.’s newly- integrated schools and later work by Neighbors, Inc. to stop the construction of freeways through D.C., promote traffic calming, and address other issues in Shepherd Park. Hairson reflects extensively on the founding of Neighbors, Inc., National Neighbors, others’ efforts to integrate housing in and around D.C., his own personal history, and the Hairston family’s history in the broader of context of American history.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001