Out of the Ashes

Twenty-five years after the devastating riot, a poor Washington family wins the struggle to save their home

WHEN MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr. was killed 25 years ago this week, black Washington exploded. Angry mobs surged through the streets exacting a terrible revenge for the slain civil rights leader. Before federal troops quelled the violence, 11 people died, hundreds of businesses were destroyed and countless thousands of lives were torn apart.

Among those caught up in the storm was Katherine Washington. Though she was only an innocent and terrified bystander during the upheaval, 25 years later it still affects her life and the lives of her children. What sets Katherine apart from most low-income blacks is that a long...

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