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At Akwaaba B&B, curl up with writers

Sun Staff

Author Walter Mosley's room is dark and mysterious with midnight-blue walls, black velvet drapes and lamps that shine interrogationlike spotlights across the walls. It's a room befitting the popular creator of a series of detective novels.

Toni Morrison's room is African-themed, with authentic mud cloth draped across the bed, an Ashanti stool from Ghana and soapstone eggs from Kenya on the night table. It's meant to represent Morrison's regal personality.

Welcome to Akwaaba D.C. (pronounced ah-qua-buh, and meaning "welcome" in Ghana) in Washington's Dupont Circle.

The bed and breakfast, opened by former Essence magazine editor-in-chief Monique Greenwood and husband Glenn Pogue in 2003, is a tribute to African-American writers.

"I didn't feel there was a place that really celebrated African-American authors," Greenwood said while standing in the foyer of her creation. "These are the keepers of our culture, and they tell our stories."

Each of the eight rooms in the five-story brownstone built in the 1890s is decorated around a genre - inspiration, romance, science fiction and poetry - or a well-known author - Mosley, Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes.

The room dedicated to Hughes has a haberdashery theme and is decorated in browns in tribute to his dapper personality. Hurston's room is done in the deep red of a diva with a sitting window and chaise longue that fit her strong personality.

"You know Zora was fabulous, and she would definitely be stretched out on that chaise longue," Greenwood said.

Even outside the rooms, decorations pay tribute to authors: Along the right walls of the front foyer are black-and-white snapshots of legendary and contemporary writers: Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Lucille Clifton, Rita Davis, Maya Angelou.

Going up the staircase, the walls feature promotional posters of book jackets, including that of Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams From My Father, a book Greenwood said she discovered before the newly elected senator from Illinois became the poster child of the Democratic Party during the last election. Each of the rooms is stocked with books by black authors, and Mosley autographed his entire collection to be displayed in his room.

Akwaaba D.C. is one of four bed and breakfasts owned by Greenwood and Pogue. They opened the first, Akwaaba Mansion, in the Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1995 in a dilapidated structure dubbed the "haunted house" by kids in the neighborhood. They also own Akwaaba by the Sea in Cape May, N.J., and Akwaaba in the Bayou about 25 blocks from New Orleans' French Quarter.

The couple said Washington was a natural fit for the literary-themed bed and breakfast because they're both natives of the capital city. In addition, Greenwood graduated from Howard University.

While best known for her six-year stint at Essence, a magazine aimed at African-American women, Greenwood is also the author of her own book, Having What Matters, as well as an avid reader and literary fan.

While there is a live-in innkeeper, Greenwood does a lot of the duties herself, including cleaning toilets and running a bubble bath for guests each night.

Akwaaba D.C. also has a writer's retreat, a full-sized apartment in the basement, where established authors can come to work on their books.

Recently, Erica Turnipseed checked in to work on the sequel to her first novel, A Love Noir. Turnipseed, who has been planning a wedding while trying to meet her book deadline, said she needed a place where she could come and write with no distractions.

"It's nice to have a place where I can dig in and get in the right space to really write," she said.

In keeping with its theme, the bed and breakfast is also host to book readings and signings in the spring.

Greenwood says about half her visitors are avid readers. The site is particularly popular among book clubs. But she said people also come for other reasons, including romantic getaways.

"You don't want someone who hasn't read a book since high school to feel like they can't stay here," Greenwood said.

Akwaaba D.C. is in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood. (Visitors get the full address when making a reservation.) For more information, visit or call 866-466-3855.

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