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Dear PoPville – Why So Many Funeral Homes on Kennedy Street?

by Prince Of Petworth February 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm 17 Comments

funeral_homes_dc

“Dear PoPville,

I just learned that another funeral home is coming to Kennedy Street. This funeral home is located at 502 Kennedy Street NW next to the Target Liquors. I believe that makes 5 funeral homes on Kennedy Street from 3rd St NW to GA Ave NW. That’s a lot. Why are there so many funeral homes on Kennedy Street?”

I once asked this as a Friday Question of the Day back in 2007 – at that time a reader explained one possibility:

“This is not uncommon in predominantly African-American neighborhoods everywhere. African-Americans were long denied access to most professions (still are, in some). There were only a few professions — and by that I mean not blue collar work — at which African-Americans could succeed: teaching (although usually in underfunded, undersupplied schools); some medical professions like nurses, dentists and doctors, so long as they didn’t stray out of the black community; and mortician, because everyone needs to be buried. Teaching and medicine are tougher to get into because you needed the money to go to college; you can pass on the mortician’s art from generation to generation, and all you need to do is get a license. Lots of African-Americans with aspirations to middle-class and possibly upper middle class life opened funeral homes, which over the decades passed from generation to generation. So what it comes down to is the high concentration of funeral homes is a vestige of segregation.”

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