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Barry Farm/Hillsdale: Past, Present, Future (Virtual)

August 18, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Photo: Barry Farms in April 1941. Courtesy of the National Capital Housing Authority.

At Barry Farm Dwellings in Southeast DC, a recent historic landmark designation preserved five aging buildings. Filled with public housing until 2019, the rest of the complex was razed for redevelopment. This program highlights the rich history these buildings represent, including its recent preservation saga, from the Historic Preservation Office’s determination that the site was ineligible to the persuasion of DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board to landmark the buildings despite their poor condition. But we will also look to the future of the site, asking: what comes after a site has been preserved?

On land occupied until the 1690s by the Nacotchanks (latinized to Nacostan/Anacostan), the federal government established Barry Farm/Hillsdale as a Black landownership community in 1867. Decades later, in 1941, the government took back a portion of this land to build public housing. The complex became home to momentous civil rights and antipoverty organizers and incubated DC’s emerging go-go scene. Today, it is fondly remembered by generations of Washingtonians and by recently displaced residents who hope to return to the new development.




Sarah Shoenfeld (Moderator), Principal/Historian, Prologue, DC LLC. 

Sarah Jane Shoenfeld is an independent scholar and public historian specializing in DC history. Her work addresses DC’s racialized housing landscape and planning regime; the intersection of race and historic preservation; and the history of organizing around civil rights and Black governance in DC. For her company Prologue DC, Sarah engages in a variety of public history projects, including research for exhibitions and films, historic landmark and district nominations, oral histories, and walking tours. Recent projects include consultation on a permanent exhibit for DC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library; landmark nominations and a National Register multiple property study on sites related to DC’s Black civil rights history and the history of public housing and the 20th Century African American Civil Rights Tour for DC’s Historic Preservation Office. Sarah is a co-founder of the digital public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington DC (a 2019 Preservation Awards recipient), which is documenting the former extent of racially restricted housing in the nation’s capital.


Alcione Amos, Museum Curator, Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Community Museum

Alcione M. Amos, currently a Museum Curator at Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C., is originally from Brazil and has lived and worked in the United States for five decades. She worked as a Researcher and Librarian at the World Bank, Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years while at the same time maintaining a career as an Independent Scholar. Her fields of interest include post-slavery societies such as those of the Black Seminoles and African-Americans in Washington, D.C. after the Civil War, and Afro-Brazilians who moved to West Africa in the 19th century. She also has studied the Gullah communities of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Ms. Amos has published in Africa, Brazil, the United States, and Europe.  Her latest book, published in 2021, is Barry Farm-Hillsdale in Anacostia: A Historic African American Community. She holds an MSLS degree from the Catholic University, Washington, D.C.


Amber Wiley, Assistant Professor of Art History, Rutgers University

Amber Wiley is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Rutgers University. Her research interests center on the social aspects of design and how it affects urban communities – architecture as a literal and figural structure of power. She focuses on the ways local and national bodies have made the claim for the dominating narrative and collective memory of cities and examines how preservation and public history contribute to the creation and maintenance of the identity and sense of place of a city. Her publications cover African American cultural heritage, urbanism in New Orleans, school design, urban renewal, and preservation. She gave expert testimony for the highly contested Barry Farm historic landmark designation in Washington, DC. Amber received her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University; a Master’s in Architectural History; Certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia School of Architecture; and a B.A. in Architecture from Yale University.


Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director, Empower DC 

Parisa Norouzi has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and organizing communities.  After an early career as an organizer in the environmental movement, Parisa co-founded the city-wide community organizing group Empower DC in 2003, an organization which works to build the confident self-advocacy and organized political power of low-moderate income DC residents with a focus on fighting the displacement of residents amid DC’s gentrification boom.  At Empower DC she has led the organization’s Child Care for All Campaign and the People’s Property Campaign, leading to victories including winning funding for child care vouchers which ended the city’s waiting list for those services, and changing DC law to provide opportunity for public input into the “surplus and disposition” process for public property. Since 2001, Parisa has worked alongside the historic Ivy City community to record previously undocumented history through the Ivy City History Project. Parisa graduated with honors from Marlboro College in Vermont with a degree in Environmental Policy and Interest Group Politics and later completed a Masters in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.


Program Partner

Founded in 1894, the DC History Center deepens understanding of our city’s past to connect, empower, and inspire. As the only community-based nonprofit focused on the District’s history, their vision is to reach into all eight wards to preserve and elevate the stories of Washington’s diverse people, neighborhoods, and institutions. They do this work as a welcoming and inclusive community that fosters curiosity and nurtures civic engagement to strengthen our city for all.


About Panelists’ Associated Organizations 

Prologue DC, LLC. is a woman-owned company based in Washington, DC. They are experienced historians, researchers, writers, speakers, and exhibit planners. They believe that understanding our city’s past helps us appreciate its unique 21st century culture. Enslaved and free African Americans, immigrants, wealthy landholders, prominent politicians, and many others—all of them built Washington. By telling their stories, we present history that is relevant, entertaining, and educational.


The mission of Empower DC is to enhance, improve and promote the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents in order to bring about sustained improvements in their quality of life. We accomplish our mission through grassroots organizing and trainings, leadership development, and community education. Empower DC is a citywide, multi-issue, membership-based community organizing project. Empower DC builds campaigns to address key issues that directly-impact our membership. 


Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Community Museum

Together with local communities, the Anacostia Community Museum illuminates and amplifies our collective power. As our neighborhoods undergo social, economic, and environmental changes that individuals alone cannot address, there is a need for communities to bring together their combined knowledge and strengths. As a museum that convenes people and ideas, ACM documents and preserves communities’ memories, struggles, and successes, and offers a platform where diverse voices and cultures can be heard. We believe that bridging disparate parts of our communities can bring collective action to bear on forging a better future together.


August “East of the River” events are generously sponsored by Karen Gordon of Seattle, Washington. Karen is sponsoring this month in memory of her dear friend Patricia E. Williams. Pat was a founding member of Don’t Tear It Down and a native of Southeast Washington. She devoted her career and volunteer activities to preserve and protect the urban environment in her native Washington, D.C. and in Mt. Rainier, Maryland where she resided for much of her adult life.


August 18, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm