During the early 1960s, the neighborhood was a hotbed for the Seattle civil rights movement. In 1963, civil rights protesters took to the streets and protested against racial discrimination. Later, they participated in a sit-in in downtown Seattle. At the same time, the Black Panthers used the neighborhood as a staging area for their movement.
The Central District has long been known to have a high crime rate. In the 1980s and 90s, the neighborhood struggled with gang violence, most noticeably with the infamous West Coast Crips and Bloods in a similar way to Tacoma's Hilltop Neighborhood. This has declined significantly in recent years. Crime statistics have changed drastically in the last decade, with general crime in the neighborhood higher than some Seattle neighborhoods, but by no means the highest.
Famous residents of the neighborhood include Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones. Both attended Garfield High School, possibly Seattle's most well known school. Sir Mix-a-Lot also hails from the Central District and has a number of songs that acknowledge street names and important areas.