Barry Farms
Teachers in front of Barry Farm–Hillsdale’s Birney School, ca. 1910; Courtesy of Museum of African American History

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We Shall Not Be Moved: Stories of Struggle from Barry Farm-Hillsdale at Smithsonian Anacostia Museum

After being denied entry to the White-only Sousa Junior High School, a group of Black students from D.C.’s Barry Farm-Hillsdale community filed a legal case against the institution. Bolling v. Sharpe would be unanimously decided the same day as Brown v. Board of Education by the Supreme Court, in a monumental decision that deemed segregated schools unconstitutional. Activism and resistance run deep in Barry Farm-Hillsdale, also known as Barry Farms. But the historically Black neighborhood has undergone a systemic removal of its culture and people by both the government and private investors. We Shall Not Be Moved: Stories of Struggle from Barry Farm-Hillsdale, a new online exhibition from the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, details the community’s history, from its establishment in 1867 through today. The exhibit is divided into two main sections. Explore the Neighborhood delves into the early history of Barry Farms. Originally founded to house African American refugees from the Civil War, the neighborhood grew into a bustling community of merchants, lawyers, artists, and poets by the 1900s. During the civil rights movement, groups such as the Band of Angels and Rebels with a Cause came together in Barry Farms and fought for better living conditions, schooling, and food within their neighborhood, and throughout the city. The second section, Investigate What Happened, examines four significant time periods in the neighborhood: the 1870s through 1900s, the ‘40s, the ‘60s, and the mid 2010s. These were times of drastic land and community restructuring led by D.C. and federal governments, often through the use of eminent domain. Accompanying before-and-after images demonstrate the consequences of these events. The section ends with a look into the 2019 demolition of the iconic Barry Farm Dwellings, a cornerstone in the community since the buildings’ construction in the 1940s. Residents of the dwellings were some of the last people with ties to the historically Black neighborhood, and many still do not know if they’ll be allowed to return. We Shall Not Be Moved gives Barry Farms the spotlight it has long deserved—it shines a light on the community’s activism and inspiring ability to overcome adversity, while highlighting the important history and culture in D.C. that is being systemically erased, destroyed, and pushed aside in the pursuit of redevelopment and urban renewal. We Shall Not Be Moved: Stories of Struggle from Barry Farm-Hillsdale is on view throughout 2022 virtually at Free.