Solomon G. Brown (ca. 1829-1906) was one of the most prominent residents of Barry Farm, the post-Civil War community built with support from the U.S. Freedmen's Bureau. His home once stood near the end of Elvans Road. Brown was born in Washington City. As a child he did not attend school but went to work; his first job was with the assistant postmaster in the city's post office. Later Brown worked with a team on the first magnetic telegraph system that operated between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland. In 1852 he was the first African American employed at the Smithsonian Institution, where he would remain for 54 years, rising from laborer to skilled clerk.

During his tenure at the Smithsonian Brown became an expert on natural history, well known for his illustrated lectures before scientific societies in DC and as far away as Baltimore. During the brief period when the District of Columbia became a federal territory with elected local government (1871-74), Brown represented Anacostia and Barry Farm/Hillsdale as a member of the Washington, DC, House of Delegates. In 1874 this political experiment ended and the territorial government was replaced with three white presidentially appointed commissioners. This change effectively ended Brown's political participation and the participation of other black men in local government until well into the 20th century. However, during his tenure and beyond, Brown advocated for and gained improved roads, an adequate sewer system, and new schools.

In addition to his other accomplishments Brown founded the Pioneer Sabbath School and was a member of the Freedman's Relief Association and a trustee of Wilberforce University. He also wrote poetry that was published in area newspapers.


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