4. 2712 Dumbarton Avenue

2712 Dumbarton Ave.
Photo by Bob Rives

Epiphany Catholic Church

The first African American Catholic Church whose cornerstone was laid in 1925 by former members of Trinity Catholic Church dissatisfied with the discrimination they incurred. Since 1790, African American Catholics attended Holy Trinity (near Georgetown University) and followed the segregated rules of the church:  entering by a side door, ascending a steep staircase to sit in the balcony and waiting to take communion until the last white parishioner had taken it.  These rules were enforced and observed by the Catholic Diocese until the 1920’s when the post-World War I years brought out an emerging middle class within the African American community.  The demand for full and equal participation within the church brought about the formation of Epiphany Catholic church to better serve the Herring Hill community of Georgetown.  Though financially risky, the community and church leaders did everything they could to support the new church—during the depression one reverend lived in the sacristy because parishioners couldn’t afford to lease him a room.  It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Epiphany was led by its first African American pastor.  As the families in the nearby neighborhood were forced out due to rising property costs, the demographic of the church changed.