National

D.C. Block Renamed for Activist Lawrence Guyot

Lawrence Guyot, pictured in 2011, worked to educate young people about the civil rights movement. (Courtesy of Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida)
Lawrence Guyot, pictured in 2011, worked to educate young people about the civil rights movement. (Courtesy of Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, University of Florida)
by Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

Lawrence Guyot battled against voter intimidation in Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1960s and lobbied ardently for D.C. statehood after moving to the nation’s capital in the early 1970s.

The D.C. Council recently recognized the sacrifice and steadfast support of Guyot, who died in 2012, when the members voted unanimously to rename the 500 block of U Street in Northwest Washington in his honor. If the measure is approved by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the block where Guyot lived for 30 years will bear the name “Lawrence Guyot Way.”

“He would have been so proud, and it is a much-deserved recognition,” said Julie Guyot-Diangone, Guyot’s daughter. “He loved Washington, D.C. so much. It is appropriate that he be recognized with a street named in his honor, and the street where our family lived for so many years is the perfect street to be named for him.”

Guyot died on Nov. 23, 2012, of complications of diabetes and heart disease in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving. Though his health was failing in the final days of his life, his activism and love of politics never faltered. He looked forward to witnessing the second inauguration of President Obama, for whom he had campaigned. Guyot had cast his ballot for Obama a few weeks earlier, determined that his vote would be counted, when he was carried into the polls by D.C. Fire Department rescuers because he was too weak to walk.

“I never thought I would live to see it. I hoped, but never dreamed it,” Guyot said at the time of Obama’s re-election. “Not only did we witness an African-American elected to the highest position in the nation. We saw him reaffirmed in a second election. It is unprecedented and sets the tone for civil rights moving forward. It also says to young people of color that there are no limits. You truly can achieve anything if you work hard enough — anything.”

It was Guyot-Diangone’s idea that a street should be named for her father. She moved back in with her parents before Guyot died with her two young children.

“This is the way D.C. honors its local heroes, its most beloved — the people who made a difference to D.C.,” said Guyot-Diangone. “It’s especially significant for me because I will be raising his grandchildren on the street named for him. That really resonates with me.”

Council records show the Lawrence Guyot Way Designation Act of 2014 was sent to Mayor Vincent Gray’s office on Dec. 9. He signed the measure last week. It now moves to Congress for a 30-day period of review.

In an email, Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said he was “pleased to sign the bill in honor of a man who fought for freedom, self-determination and democracy for the residents of the District of Columbia and disenfranchised people all over.”

Guyot-Diangone said her family moved to the brownstone in the 500 block of U Street in 1981, several years after the elder Guyots moved to the District after her father graduated from Rutgers Law School. Guyot worked for Pride Inc. and then in the administration of Mayor Marion Barry, whom he had met on the civil rights trail in the Deep South. Barry, a lifelong friend, died exactly two years to the day after Guyot on Nov. 23, 2014.

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