The Washington Times Daily - - METRO -

Barry Farm in South­east orig­i­nally was Barry Farms, a Re­con­struc­tion-Era neigh­bor­hood by the Ana­cos­tia River.

Barry Farms be­gan in 1867 af­ter the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freed­men, and Aban­doned Lands — or the Freed­men’s Bureau — bought the 375-acre farm of white landown­ers David and Ju­lia Barry for $52,000. The gov­ern­ment then sold one-acre lots to free blacks, for­mer slaves and squat­ters — many of whom made a sim­ple re­quest when asked by bureau com­mis­sioner Gen. Oliver O. Howard what they needed to be­come self-suf­fi­cient. “Land,” they said. “Give us land.” The new landown­ers built homes and tended their farms.

While parts of the neigh­bor­hood to­day in­clude sin­gle-fam­ily homes, the public hous­ing devel­op­ment Barry Farm Dwellings has re­de­fined the area. The gov­ern­ment be­gan turn­ing the for­mer home­stead into a 432-unit devel­op­ment in 1943 for the poor and the work­ing poor. Mostly oc­cu­pied by blacks, the dwellings are set for an­other re­con­struc­tion.

Early Barry Farms res­i­dents in­cluded Solomon G. Brown, a free man born to slave par­ents in 1829.

A Repub­li­can and a Chris­tian, Brown was a three-term mem­ber of the D.C.

House of Del­e­gates (pre-city coun­cil), a trustee at Wil­ber­force Univer­sity and the first black em­ployee at the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion, where, among other things, he helped Sa­muel Morse build the in­stal­la­tion for the first tele­graph.

Go-go mu­sic, the Grammy-win­ning per­cus­sion-driven sound, has roots in Barry Farms. While the late gui­tarist-song­writer Chuck Brown is the undis­puted god­fa­ther of go-go, the youths of the Barry Farm com­mu­nity busted loose in 1980. Un­able to buy new in­stru­ments, the tal­ented 8- to 13-year-olds cre­ated their styl­ized go-go sound with pots and pans, buck­ets and hub­caps.

Like else­where in the coun­try, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal was rocked by vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion fol­low­ing the April 4, 1968, as­sas­si­na­tion of Martin Luther King. And like civic lead­ers else­where, D.C. of­fi­cials de­cided to name or re­name a street in the civil rights leader’s honor. They chose the poor­est po­lit­i­cal area of the city, Ward 8, and the street in South­east that housed the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment Hos­pi­tal for the In­sane (now St. El­iz­a­beths Hos­pi­tal).

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