Thursday, April 30, 2020

The African-American Mo-So-Lit Club in Washington, DC

Continuing the fascinating history of 1327 R Street that we posted yesterday, in 1925 the house was sold to an organization called the Mu-So-Lit Club, who used it as a meeting house until 1961.  A steward of the Club named Charles Elzey resided in the house that year, according to the City Directory.  
The Mu-So-Lit Club was organized by representatives of the educated class of blacks in Washington, D.C. in 1905.  Some of its members were Kelly Miller, George William Cook, F. Morris Murray, G. Smith Wormley, Thomas H. R. Clarke, Robert H. Terrell, James A. Cobb and A. Mercer Daniel. The club's first president was Francis F. Cardoza, of which Cardoza High School is named.

Very little remains of the history and operations of the club and its activities.  The archives at UMass Amherst contains a letter the Mu-So-Lit Club to W. E. B. Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt), written in 1930 from 1327 R Street signed by Carrie W. Clifford (1862-1934) informing him that he will soon receive a formal invitation to attend the next meeting of the Mu-So-Lit Club.

A 1945 rooster of the 12th Special Boxcar Battalion published on January 7, 1945 documenting the World War II activities of the military unit on Peary, Hueneme, and Banika in the South Pacific listed Isaac Sherman Taylor as an occupant of the house, likely a steward of the Mo-So-Lit Club.    

The club was mentioned in the October 3, 1932 Washington Star, above left, in the February 5, 1940 Washington Star, above center, and the February 18, 1950 Washington Post, above right.   

Several images of activities of the club were captured by noted local photographer Adison Scurlock, and are housed at the National Museum of American History.  Seen below are images of the Mu So Lit Club Lincoln-Douglas Dinner held in 1940. 

On September 25, 1961, the Mo-So-Lit Club sold the house to the trustees of the Alpha Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, who would continue to own it until 2019. 

Copyright Paul K. Williams

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