tv STUDENTCAM 2022 GRAND PRIZE WINNER - What Happened to Gibson Grove CSPAN April 21, 2022 10:27pm-10:37pm EDT
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night, april 30th on c-span, c-span radio, c-span.org, and that c-span now video app. ♪ >> middle and high school students participated in c-span's student documentary competition. we ask the question, "how does the federal government impact your life?" all month we are featuring the winning entries. our grand prize winners are seventh graders from eastern middle school in silver spring , maryland, where c-span is available through comcast. their winning entry is titled "what happened to gibson grove?" >> growing up, my brother and i would go to our favorite park -- bike to our favorite park all the time. along the way, we would past a small church that was very mysterious. it is located in a wooded area next to i-4 95, the highway that goes around washington, d.c. in the shape of a belt. the doors and windows of the church were boarded up and there were vines growing everywhere. it looked like there had been a
fire a long time ago. we were curious and we found out that more than 140 years ago, the church, called gibson grove, had been the center of a bustling african-american community. there had been a school, and adult baseball team, and a community meeting hall with dances in the cemetery. one day, we saw an announcement that the capital beltway was being extended in the area of the church. the plans show that the new highway lanes would be built right on top of portions of the cemetery, threatening to erase it. ♪ >> the highways around washington, d.c. are some of the most congested in the country. people can literally be stuck on them for hours. the widening of the capital beltway was a major victory for maryland governor larry hogan, who argued that the project is essential for economic development across the region. america's interstate highway system took shape in 1956, with the passage of the federal-aid highway act.
at that time, officials often purposely rounded the roads through black and brown communities, displacing families and demolishing historic neighborhoods. the national trust for historic preservation called highways "memorials to racial injustice" and said architects of the road tended to view black neighborhoods as the path of least resistance. we are now in a moment of racial reckoning. president biden, as part of the $1 trillion plan to improve america's infrastructure, has pledged to use 20 million dollars to help neighborhoods of color split or split or bypass projects. >> if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly black and puerto rican kids to in new york was designed to low for it to pass by, that obviously reflects racism that
led to those design choices. >> the story of gibson grove community in cabin john, maryland begins in 1880, when robert and sarah gibson, who were formerly enslaved and came north to maryland from virginia, bought a five acre plot of land in an area about four miles northwest from washington, d.c. soon, nine other black families joined them. >> during the time period when the people who were coming into this area were purchasing the land, this land was actually segregated. african-americans were not allowed to live here. they found a few people who owned properties who were willing to actually sell land to african americans. this is why this becomes so important. even though they were surrounded all around by people who didn't want them there, and a hostile environment, they still found a way to make this a home. in small areas, they had the cemetery, they built the church, they had a lot of different people who had different jobs, they were seamstresses and other things as well.
>> my family is originally from georgetown, washington, d.c. we are still tracing how he got here. we believe he was working on the aqueduct nearby. >> but something happened to the tightknit community in the 1950's and 1960's. that is when the original construction of the capital beltway took place. it physically split the gibson grove ame zion church from the cemetery. >> see these right here? that is under the highway. if you follow me carefully, -- >> oh, there is another one. >> another one. but you can't really read it. it is worn away. you can see there is an inscription. >> as a child, i never knew this was here. i really didn't, because my grandmother didn't talk about it.
neither one of my grandparents. it was something that really, really hurt them. just imagine your ancestors buried on property and all of a sudden, the highway department comes by and decides well, no one is going to miss these people, we are just going to pave over them. >> for lust communities like gibson grove, cemeteries are often all that's left. >> black cemeteries really contain black history. we are re-creating the entire history sometimes in these communities, knowing who is in the cemeteries. >> a congressman from virginia has written a bill that would direct the national park service to map historic african-american cemeteries. supporters hope it will be reintroduced this year. >> we need to act now before the sites are lost to the ravages of time or development.
>> we can still see the consequences of those decisions. the segregation that began back then is still present in montgomery county. the area around gibson grove in the western half is now overwhelmingly white. i go to school in the east, which is 75% minorities. the story of the cemetery has a happy ending. neighbors and academic researchers formed a coalition to fight the construction. in september, the state announced it would avoid the cemetery when adding new lanes. but without strong federal laws to protect these sites, the threat still looms elsewhere. ♪ >> to watch this and all winning entries, visit our website at studentcam.org. >> listen to c-span radio with our free mobile app, c-span now. get complete access to what's happening in washington,
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