Sarah Jane Shoenfeld

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Sarah Jane Shoenfeld

Senior Scholar (Non-Resident)


Sarah Jane Shoenfeld is an independent scholar and public historian specializing in DC history. Her work addresses DC’s racialized housing landscape and planning regime; the intersection of race and historic preservation; and the history of organizing around civil rights and Black governance in DC. 

Sarah is a co-founder of the digital public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington DC, which is documenting the former extent of racially restricted housing in the nation's capital along with other historic mechanisms of segregation and serial displacement. The project won a 2019 Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation and continues to garner local and national attention from scholars, activists, educators and others interested in how systemically racist housing policies have shaped the cities we live in today.
For her company Prologue DC, Sarah engages in a variety of public history projects, including research for exhibitions and films, historic landmark and district nominations, oral histories, and walking tours. Recent projects include consultation on a permanent exhibit for DC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library; landmark nominations and a National Register multiple property study on sites related to DC’s Black civil rights history and the history of public housing; the 20th Century African American Civil Rights Tour for DC’s Historic Preservation Office, and a successful nomination for the Bloomingdale Historic District, based, in part, on the neighborhood’s role as a national epicenter of legal challenges to racial covenants.  
Sarah was the lead historian for several DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails and has produced historical essays and other content for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, American Experience (PBS), WGBH-TV, and Blackside, among others. Sarah received an M.A. in History and a Certificate in Public History from Northeastern University. She grew up and lives in DC. 


Say Their Names,” Washington History 32:1/2, Fall 2020.

Review, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., by Ashanté M. Reese, Washington History 32:1/2, Fall 2020.

"Barry Farm's historic landmark designation was pitted against affordable housing," The Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2020

The history and evolution of Anacostia’s Barry Farm,” D.C. Policy Center, July 9, 2019.

"Mapping segregation in D.C.," D.C. Policy Center, Apr. 23, 2019.

"Race and Real Estate in Mid-Century DC,” D.C. Policy Center, Apr. 16, 2019.

"Open Data Meets History: Mapping Segregation in American Cities, Then and Now," for Open Cities: Open Data: Collaborative Cities in the Information Era (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming).

Review, Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappucino City, by Derek S. Hyra, Washington History 30: 1, Spring 2018.

"Don't let development push out low-income residents," Opinions, The Washington Post, March 23, 2018.

"How segregation shaped DC's northernmost ward," Greater Greater Washington, Sep. 14, 2017.

"DC's Comprehensive Plan, a document we use today, preserves the racial segregation of our past," Greater Greater Washington, June 13, 2017.

"'A Strictly White Residential Section': The Rise and Demise of Racially Restrictive Covenants in Bloomingdale," Washington History 29: 1, Spring 2017.

ReviewJust Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, by Joan Quigley (H-AfroAm, Feb 2017).

Working with Empower DC and the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association to create a museum and community space at the former site of Barry Farm Dwellings, where a set of buildings has been historically landmarked for this purpose.

Developing book proposal for biography of mid-20th century DC activist Julius Hobson, a leader in demanding equal education for Black students, Black access to housing and employment, Black political leadership, and statehood for DC.

Mapping Spatial Violence: dispossession, public housing, and “new communities,” Society for Architectural Historians Latrobe Chapter, Feb. 23, 2021

Drawing Lines: How Race Shaped DC's Housing Landscape, DC History Center, Jan. 27, 2021

Historic Preservation: Of the People, By the People, For the People?, DC History Conference, Nov. 13, 2020 (Shoenfeld presents at 15:20 and Q&A)

How We Got Here: The Legacy of Racial Deed Covenants and Federal Housing Policies, Anacostia Community Museum, Oct. 20, 2020