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The True Reformer Building at 1200 U Street NW, was architecturally envisioned and designed by John A Lankford (True Reformer Building). It was built in 1903 and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places (A National Historic Landmark). The True Reformer building is said to be one of, if not the first, building erected entirely from the work and resources of African Americans. The goal of the building was to reflect the importance and talents of African Americans in Washington DC. This was especially important in the difficult time period for African Americans in which the building was built.


  • The outside of the True Reformer Building.
  • The Duke Ellington Mural on the side of the True Reformer Building.
One of the main goals of the True Reformer Building was to provide insurance for African Americans who could not otherwise obtain it (A Historical Landmark). At the time the building was built, many African Americans had a difficult time getting insurance from predominantly white-owned insurance companies who discriminated against him. Therefore, without places like the True Reformer Building, many African Americans of the time would likely not have been able to provide for themselves as well as they were able to. The fact that this building used entirely African American resources was also a social statement as to the capability and importance of the African American community.

The True Reformer Building was also home to many events and celebrations in the African American community. One of the most well known people to perform at events at the building was Duke Ellington (A Historical Landmark). There was even a mural painted on the side of the building in his honor, which was unfortunately taken down in 2012. However, there have been reports that the mural will be restored to its former glory in the near future (Duke Ellington Still Absent).

In 1999, the Public Welfare Foundation bought the True Reformer Building (A Historical Landmark). It is now home to the office space of this foundation. Although the building is no longer being used in quite the way that it used to, it is a building rich with African American history. The True Reformer Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 (A Historical Landmark).

"True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC," Library of Congress, accessed October 1, 2014, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/dc0264/. "A Historical Landmark, the True Reformers Building," African American Registry, accessed October 1, 2014, http://www.aaregistery.org/historic_events/view/historical-landmark-true-reformers-building. "Duke Ellington Still Absent from the True Reformer Building on U Street," Popville, accessed October 1, 2014, http://www.popville.com/2013/08/duke-ellington-still-absent-from-the-true-reformer-building-on-u-street/.