Two Washington, D.C.-area high school students have created an interactive app that highlights the history of civil rights in the District.

“After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 because of police brutality, we become interested in the Black Lives Matter movement and wanted to take action as allies of the movement,” said Eliza Dorton, a co-founder of the D.C. Civil Rights App along with her younger sister Lily, on the Oct. 7 edition of WIN-TV, the Washington Informer’s Internet news show. “We stumbled upon this by accident. We found that there are various hidden landmarks that have been whitewashed by the white male culture.”

The Dorton sisters attend the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md. They said Holton-Arms had an open, tolerant atmosphere in regards to the racial history of America. The Dortons wanted to focus on places where African Americans challenged segregation and broke down barriers in the face of oppression.

“Washington, D.C. and our country have been shaped by the dedication and hope of Black Americans,” the sisters said in a statement earlier published by the Informer. “Black Americans were leading the fight for equal rights. As kids living in the D.C. area, we wanted to create a tour reflecting the truth about civil rights in Washington, D.C. so that everyone, including young people, can learn more about this important history.”

Lily said that in addition to consulting a Black scholar at Suffolk University, they talked to Rohulamin Quander of Quander Quality. They said Quander provided insight and a different perspective from what they had known and heard about African American history in the city.

“It was important to consult members of the Black community,” Eliza said.

Eliza said she learned enslaved African Americans built the U.S. Capitol and White House and that Lafayette Square at one time served as a slave market.

Eliza said the app made more sense to create than a social media account.

“An app is the best way to get information across,” Eliza said. “We have a website also.”

The app showcases an interactive map that aids users navigating their way through 17 locations with visuals, audio recordings, and synopses telling the stories of each landmark and the people connected to them. The app, available to download through both Apple App Store and Google Play, includes stories about the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, the U Street neighborhood in Northwest, the Frederick Douglass House, the Capitol and Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Lily said in the future, the app will feature sites in Virginia, particularly Alexandria, Maryland and other states.


James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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