Charles Drew with his siblings

Charles Drew-- Charlie to his friends and family-- was born in 1904 in Washington, DC. He had a younger brother and two younger sisters also born in DC: Elsie (born in 1906), Joseph (born in 1909), and Nora (born in 1913). The family lived in the Foggy Bottom area of the District, at the time a largely working-class neighborhood made up of both black and white factory workers and skilled laborers.

His father, Richard, was a carpet-layer by trade, a union member and secretary of the Local 85 Carpet, Linoleum and Soft Tile Layers Union. His mother Nora stayed at home, but was a graduate of Howard University. Together, Richard and Nora Drew provided a comfortable life for their children as members of DC's growing Black middle class.

In the summer of 1919, race riots erupted in the district, centering around nearby black neighborhoods in Southwest DC and "Murder Bay," now known as Federal Triangle. The next year, Elsie, the eldest daughter, died in the Spanish Flu pandemic. It is possible that Richard and Elsie had reached their limit, because later that year, they moved to Arlington, at that time still thought of as being "out in the country."

Charles Drew House, Arlington

The family moved to this house at 2505 First Street South. It was here that the youngest Drew child, Eva, was born in 1921.

Charlie moved out to Arlington while he was already in High School, but this house would remain his permanent home until he married in September of 1939. Indeed, Charlie would assume the role of head of the household after his father's death in 1935.

The Charles Richard Drew House, as it is now known, still stands in Arlington, and it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. The paperwork applying for this designation can be found elsewhere on this site, and is full of information about Drew, his career, and the house itself.

Early Life