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As a capital city, the area has long attracted prominent African Americans, including civic leaders and artists. Slaves in the District of Columbia were freed before the Emancipation Proclamation, African American men had voting rights before those elsewhere, and institutions such as Howard University have been a draw as well. But the vestiges of this history won’t always be found in statues or memorials. Here are some eye-opening objects that have their own stories to tell.

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