New Documentary Dives Into the Rich History of Barry Farm-Hillsdale WCP

Samuel George and Sabiyha Prince didn’t know they were making a 50 minute documentary when they first conceptualized what would become Barry Farm: Community, Land & Justice in Washington, DC

George, a filmmaker with Bertelsmann Foundation Documentary Films, met Prince when he interviewed the anthropologist, community organizer, and D.C. native for Go-Go City: Displacement and Protest in Washington, DC. For that doc, George also worked with local nonprofit Empower DC to interview residents of Barry Farm-Hillsdale, the historic Black neighborhood in Anacostia. When the film came together, there was some footage leftover from those interviews.

“When I mentioned that to Sabiyha, she said, ‘Why don’t we take that and make a little five, 10 minute film, add a couple interviews?’” George says. “And what started as this idea for this very limited, pretty short and pretty quick project, turned into a very in depth kind of project. I didn’t expect it to be like this. But looking back on it, I’m really, really happy we went in that direction.”

Like Go-Go City, Barry Farm runs for almost an hour. It tells the story of Barry Farm-Hillsdale chronologically—starting with its time as a plantation overseen by James Barry, who enslaved people to work the farm. Following emancipation, the federal Freedmen’s Bureau bought the land and sold—not gave, sold—it in plots to formerly enslaved people. Black families built homes and forged community in the neighborhood, which became a bustling center for Black life. That’s when, seeking to move away from slave owner Barry, residents renamed their neighborhood Hillsdale, though the name was never respected by the city.

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