Robert McCartney is senior regional correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post. When census experts reported in 2011 that African Americans had lost their numerical majority in the District, commentators generally treated the event as a kind of setback for a city that prides itself as a center of black politics and culture. The response was understandable, but people needn’t have worried. Washington’s status as a capital of black America has never depended on having an African American majority. Blacks have been a minority for most of the city’s existence, since they labored as slaves on the tobacco plantations that dotted the land ceded by Maryland and Virginia to create the new nation’s capital. Nonetheless, the District’s African Americans have consistently been leaders in the nation’s unfinished efforts to tear down racial barriers to political, economic and social equality. [From Chocolate City to Latte City: Being black in the new D.C.] Before the Civil War, Washington was the only Southern city with an active abolitionist movement. In the years following the war, Howard University and other intellectual centers offered unmatched educational opportunities. The city was half a decade ahead of the rest of the South in ending legally enforced segregation. While cities such as New Orleans had a black aristocracy, Washington’s African American community boasted both an elite and a middle class, the latter supported by jobs in the federal bureaucracy. This distinguished legacy is an integral part of “Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital,” an ambitious, comprehensive chronicle of the civic experience of blacks, whites and other races over more than two centuries in Washington. The authors are Chris Myers Asch, editor of Washington History and a history teacher at Colby College, and George Derek Musgrove, a history professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. (Full disclosure: The reviewer has occasionally used Musgrove as a source.) Their work succeeds in being both scholarly and accessible to the general reader. It mixes academic analysis with lively examples of individuals who battled