Black History Fact: The History of Barry Farms

by. Jerome Smith

This “Black Fact” is not about a person, but rather a neighborhood – “Barry Farms” here in D.C.

The Barry Farm community we know today was originally land owned by White farmers, David and Julia Barry, and it extended from the Anacostia River to what is now known as Garfield Heights. In 1867, after the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau bought 375 acres of farmland from the Barry’s.

The land was then sold for $125 to $300 per acre to newly freed slaves and quickly became D.C.’s first African-American home-ownership community. A portion of the profits from this were then used to build Howard University, which started out as an educational institution for the residents of Barry Farm, who built their homes and the surrounding neighborhood from scratch.

In 1954, the Redevelopment Land Agency acquired much of the land in the area and built public housing for displaced residents coming from the urban renewal in Southwest and other parts of the city. These “projects,” which remain today, have been neglected for years and are facing demolition now.

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