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District of Columbia

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The District of Columbia, the capital of the United States, is situated between Virginia and Maryland on the Potomac River. Named after Columbus, this district is identical with the city of Washington D.C. This region was first inhabited by Piscataway Native Americans, who moved west during the late 1600s. After the arrival of the European settlers in the area, Alexandria, the first town in the area, was established in 1749. At the end of the American Revolutionary war, in 1783, the United States of America declared its independence. In order to settle the disagreements that raised as to which state the nation’s capital would be a part of, Alexander Hamilton proposed that the nation’s new capital should be established on a federal land rather than in a state. Accordingly, both Virginia and Maryland gave up a part of their lands along the Potomac River to form District of Columbia in 1791. The capital city was officially moved from Philadelphia to the District of Columbia on December 1, 1800. President John Adams became the first resident in the White House.

The city was planned and partially laid out primarily by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a renowned French engineer. The work was, however, completed and finalized by Major Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker. The City, including the White House, was burnt by the British during the War of 1812. The District of Columbia was home to the nation’s largest slave trading operation during the 1830s. The Alexandria County was handed over back to the Commonwealth of Virginia on July 9, 1846, and slave trade operations were finally outlawed as per the ‘Compromise of 1850’. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to a rapid increase in the population of the state. Another significant event that took place in the 19th century was the Battle of Fort Stevens, which was fought in July, 1864 to repel the Confederate forces led by General Jubal Anderson Early. The boundaries of the City of Washington were made coterminous with those of the District of Columbia as per the Organic Act, passed by the Congress in 1878.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930's, followed by World War II in the 1940's, led to a dramatic increase in the city’s population. Other significant historical events that took place in the city during the 20th century include the assassination of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., which led to riots in certain sections of the city; the inauguration of the Washington Metro Subway system on March 27, 1976; and election of Walter Washington as the first elected Mayor of the District in 1975. The most traumatic event in the history of the District of Columbia was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the city by the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda.

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