Twelfth Street YMCA

Twelfth Street YMCA

The Twelfth Street Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building, located in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC, housed the first African-American YMCA in the United States.

Founded in England in 1844, the YMCA movement promoted the mental, physical, social and religious development of young urban boys. It gained popularity in the United States as a positive community-building organization to combat of new problems associated with modernization and urbanization, like poverty and overcrowding.

In 1853, educator and religious leader Anthony Bowen founded the Colored Young Men’s Christian Association.

During slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow, this branch was a safe haven for the DC black community. After occupying several rented locations in the city, in 1912 the Y moved to a new building on Twelfth Street, NW.

For seven decades, the Twelfth Street YMCA provided unwavering support and opportunity for and created by the black community in an era of inequality and violence.

The YMCA It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.