A recording of the Jan. 18 webinar entitled, “Pushed Out: A Story of Race Relations in Chevy Chase DC,” is now available. Listen to the virtual discussion featuring authors Barbara Boyle Torrey and Clara Myrick Green here.
The hour-long talk, hosted by Historic Chevy Chase DC and moderated by local activist Corey Shaw Jr., focused on how Chevy Chase DC finds itself in the arc of American History as it grapples with its own experience with racial displacement.
The authors discussed how a family with ancestral links to George Washington lived in a cluster of Black households on Broad Branch Road in the 19th and 20th centuries. They worked, farmed, raised families, and thrived in an integrated farm community for 80 years before racial animus and the rise of Jim Crow forced them out nearly a century ago.
Torrey and Green, authors of the book Between Freedom and Equality: The History of an African American Family in Washington, DC (published by Georgetown University Press) explained how this long-settled Black community first came here and how it was displaced as the new suburb of Chevy Chase DC developed. The decades of stability they had through living in the same place, among the same neighbors, was among the most harmful of the damage caused by this Black land loss.
The compelling story that the authors unspool in this video explains how this local experience of displacement reflects a common theme in American history of the last 200 years that more often than not has been lost to memory. Their initial efforts were to research the personal history of a formerly enslaved man named George Pointer. They were intrigued after reading an obscure document in the National Archives that Pointer wrote about his life. Pointer was born into slavery in 1773 on a nearby plantation, and at age 13 he was sent to work on George Washington’s Potomac Canal Company. Against all odds, he bought his freedom and rose in the ranks to a supervisory engineer and a river boat captain.
His granddaughter, Mary Ann Plummer Harris, later moved to a parcel of land on Broad Branch Road called Dry Meadows where Lafayette school and park now stand. The 2.3 acre parcel that she and her husband bought served for the next eight decades as a stable family compound as family members came and went until the land was procured by the government in 1928 to build a segregated school. By this time, the nearby rural farmland had given way to a suburban grid surrounding, and Blacks were targeted for removal.
This Jan. 18 webinar, and the book on which it centers, bring the lives of actual people to the center of a deeply researched history that had been buried for decades, even while the social and economic legacy of the displacement is baked into the current map.
This event was the first of at least four events planned for 2023, culminating in a National Park Service celebration of Pointer’s 250th Birthday in October. For more on this series, or on George Pointer, please visit the HCCDC web site at https://www.historicchevychasedc.org. As always feedback and additional programming ideas are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org