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Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler

Our Inspiration

Daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of people who were enslaved, Josephine Butler (1920-1997) was one of innercity Washington's most respected community leaders, who helped shape nearly every major social change initiative in Washington since the 1930's. She started America's first-ever union of black women laundry workers, she helped lead the integration of the Adams and Morgan Schools, she educated thousands of children about the hazards of air pollution a generation before the environmental movement began, she was a lifelong leader in pressing for health care reform, and she co-founded the statehood movement for the District of Columbia. She became a champion of park revitalization to give our communities a place to come together, our children a safe outdoor place to learn about the world, and our city a place to champion true home rule for the lands we call home. Led by Ms. Butler at the time of her death, Washington Parks & People named the historic building at 2437 15th Street, NW, after her -- in the heart of the community in which she lived and worked for 63 years.


The Josephine Butler Parks Center is a living tribute to her lifetime of loving, inspired leadership. A few Jo Butler sayings that continue to inspire our work:

  • A Rock, A River, A Tree -- A Park for All People
  • It's a huge task-- that's why we have to get started.
  • Leave no child behind.
  • Remember the earthworm.