International Underground Railroad Month in Maryland, Part II: “A State Located at the Intersection of Slavery and Freedom”

International Underground Railroad Month in Maryland, Part II: “A State Located at the Intersection of Slavery and Freedom”

Q&A Compiled By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator  

“Growing up…. in my mind, Maryland was firmly part of the Union, but Maryland is also below the Mason-Dixon line, and so what does that mean? It’s a state located at the intersection of slavery and freedom, a state that never seceded from the Union…. The people of Maryland had mixed allegiances… And that made it a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity.”

– Mark Thorne, Historic Site Manager for the Josiah Henson Museum and Park

In Part II of this blog series, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) staff continue the conversation with six experts working on Underground Railroad history across the state. Read Part I of the conversation here for more on the experts’ backgrounds and their recommendations for where to visit.

Posts like this one guide visitors through Woodlawn Manor’s Underground Railroad Experience Trail. Photo by MHAA staff

For Part II of our conversation, we asked three questions:

1. What is something about Maryland’s Underground Railroad history that surprised you?

Mark Thorne, Historic Site Manager at the  Josiah Henson Museum and Park, answered:

 “If you look at the fact that one of the largest slave markets in North America was in Washington, DC at one time, and – around the same time – Baltimore had the largest of concentration of free Blacks in the country. So think about that: both of these places in close proximity, and Maryland allowed slavery but was located right across the border from freedom in Pennsylvania until the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. That is also part of why Maryland was such a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity. And then there’s the fact that many in Maryland wanted to secede. Annapolis was occupied by Union troops [in 1861], and the Governor moved the special legislative session to Frederick, Maryland. Some of the legislators called for a vote to secede. [Maryland] was essentially an occupied state, occupied by federal troops.” 

“As a native Washingtonian, I didn’t really understand a lot of that history, that Maryland was debating whether or not to secede from the Union… All of this is Underground Railroad related: the role of slavery in Maryland; the fact that you had Quakers here, who as a group agreed to disavow those owning enslaved persons, that would have helped those seeking freedom; that you had ports in Maryland where those who escaped were able to often find work on ships and to escape via the waterways and ships. It’s the total history of the institution of slavery in Maryland and how it resulted in Maryland as a hotbed of those looking for self-emancipation that keeps surprising me.”   


Herschel Johnson, curator for the Stanley Institute and volunteer for the  Harriet Tubman Museum, answered:

“One thing that surprised me has been about my own family history and how it is connected with the Underground Railroad. I first thought that no one was enslaved in our family, but I later found out that wasn’t true.”  

Mr. Johnson described how his great-great-grandmother Sarah Young had been listed and freed in the last will and testament of Henry Nichols of East New Market and how a man named Samuel Green was also granted freedom, five years after Nichols’ death, in the same document. William Still documented that Samuel Green’s son, Samuel Green Jr., was one of the many enslaved people of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to whom Harriet Tubman gave directions about how escape to freedom. Read more here on Samuel Green Sr.’s life, including details about how he was imprisoned for possessing a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Diane Miller, Program Manager for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, answered:

“I realized a couple years ago how many really prominent figures in the 19th century African American community came from Maryland and were freedom seekers: Harriet TubmanFrederick DouglassJosiah HensonJames W.C. PenningtonHenry Highland Garnet, and the William Still family came from Maryland, although he [William Still] was born in New Jersey. [Maryland] was an incubator, I think, of African American leadership in the days of the Underground Railroad.” 

This quote form Harriet Tubman is highlighted in the exhibits at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek. Photo by MHAA staff

Julie Gilberto-Brady, Manager for the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, answered:

“I continue to be amazed by the stories of the people who worked tirelessly and secretly to do what was right, to overcome the scourge of slavery. These people risked their lives over and over, and the strength of their convictions is inspiring. There is so much history – so close to home. One example that comes to mind is the story of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Amby, who was enslaved by Dr. Alexander Bayly in Cambridge and escaped to freedom in 1857 with her husband and thirteen others. As part of the virtual and augmented reality tour we are developing to enhance the Underground Railroad Audio Guide, a reenactor has portrayed Lizzie Amby at that pivotal, suspenseful moment, just as she would have been deciding to run away. The new tour is supported in part by an MHAA grant.” 


Bruce Russell, Board President for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, answered:

“Two things: How central this general area [the upper Chesapeake Bay region] was to the escape routes [for enslaved people seeking freedom]. How much of what is known [about this history] is [known] through oral history and tradition. Also, how much is unknown [because] secrecy and staying below the ‘radar’ was what black freemen, white abolitionists and others needed to succeed and survive. We have so many questions. The more we research, the more questions we have.” 


Anthony Cohen, founder of the Menare Foundation, answered:

The sheer number of both historical and natural sites and resources associated with Underground Railroad history in Maryland still surprises me. Looking at the Network to Freedom, 80 Maryland sites are listed, perhaps more than any other state.” 

2. How has Underground Railroad history shaped the way you think about places and landscapes in Maryland?

Mark Thorne answered:

One of the things that my perspective has really changed on [since learning more about the Underground Railroad] are the waterways – not just the ports in Baltimore – but if you look at all of the smaller waterways too. For instance, the Anacostia Watershed, that water flows to the South, and that was used as a way for people to travel and navigate… The small tributaries lead into big rivers. People could use them as a great way to walk and not be noticed, to avoid leaving your scent for animals to follow.”


Herschel Johnson answered:

I believe if Harriet Tubman could come back today, that landscape around the Little Black Water River would be almost the same that she would have seen as a child. If you go toward the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, then the Little Black Water is on your way to the Bucktown Village Store. When Harriet was a child – and she would have been called Araminta Ross then – she had to go to the muskrat traps there around the Little Blackwater River. If a muskrat was caught in the trap, she had to run back home to tell her family. If she didn’t get back in time and the muskrat got away, she would be punished, and a muskrat would gnaw its foot off in order to get out of the trap to get away. So she had to be fast.”

A paddler enjoys the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Diane Miller answered:

One of the things that comes to mind when I ponder this question is the geography of Maryland: the vast differences between the Eastern Shore and the western part of the state. One facet of Underground Railroad history that has not received enough attention generally is the maritime connection… A lot of the work that had to be done on the docks, working with cargo, and even serving as sailors on the ships – a lot of that was done by African Americans, some enslaved and some free. So, the maritime industries were a way of connecting people across the geography, sharing information, and also assisting people in escaping. The importance of the waterways and how many escapes happened by boat really struck me since I’ve been living here [Maryland].”  


Julie Gilberto-Brady answered:

“I grew up in Virginia and felt like I had learned the history of the East Coast well in school, but there is so much more to know that I didn’t realize I didn’t know until I moved here [Dorchester County] and was immersed in it. Every time I visit a new place, I can’t help but stop and reflect on how I am literally walking in the footsteps of people who did so many heroic things generations before me. It makes their lives – their trials, tribulations, and achievements – more real.” 


Bruce Russell answered:

“It has never made sense to me that no one ever connected the many ‘dots’ in this area [the Upper Chesapeake Bay]. The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum’s new exhibit will highlight the roles that the Susquehanna River and the Bay played for enslaved people who escaped and the roles these waterways played in the forced transport of enslaved people by those who trafficked them. Our local stories extend to Baltimore and north and east to Philadelphia, New York and Canada. This area was a crossroads.” 


Anthony Cohen answered:

“Some background about me to help answer this question: In about 1994, I was doing my senior thesis at American University, and I traced a documented Underground Railroad route in Montgomery County, in Sandy Spring. At the time, not much was written about Underground Railroad routes. There was interpretation about some individuals with Underground Railroad ties – Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman – but not much on the organized system of escape. So the paper I wrote became a booklet, and I started interpreting that history, doing talks at public schools for example. In 1996, I decided to actually take a journey to recreate a route of escape. I started in Sandy Spring. Maryland and went all the way to Buffalo, New York, where I crossed the river into Canada. I mostly walked but also used other transportation that would have been available at the time: trains, even a horse-drawn buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, driven by a Mennonite man whose great grandfather had shown him the route that he used to use to transport freedom seekers to safe houses. Parts of my trip, I spent feeling like I was ‘floating,’ because I kept having experiences like that one.” 

“The roads we use today, if they date back to the 19th century, in my research I keep finding that they were mentioned in the narratives of people escaping slavery. For example, Route 355, Rockville Pike, that was called ‘The Montgomery Road’ in the narratives. The C&O Canal, the Potomac River, B&O Railroad, and the North Central Rail line out of Baltimore, they also kept coming up in the narratives of freedom seekers.”

“The Underground Railroad followed both natural and man-made transportation routes, many of which are still around us today. I see the Underground Railroad everywhere in Maryland, but in its modern form. We think of the safe houses and documenting those, but the process, the journey, that is where Maryland can excel in providing unique tourism experiences, where people can actually walk, bicycle, and drive on those very same routes, in those same landscapes.” 

Woodlawn Manor’s Underground Railroad Experience Trail highlights the types of landscape features, such as water crossings, that freedom seekers would have encountered and used in their journeys. Photo by MHAA staff

3. What books or other resources do you recommend on the topic of Underground Railroad history in Maryland? 

Mark Thorne recommends both Josiah Henson’s autobiographical work and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He said that both works are incredible, but cautioned readers to be prepared that both can make for difficult reading.

“The truth is not easy to digest. That’s the reason why Harriet Beecher Stowe had to write her second book [The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin] because slaveholders continued to blast her book as fiction, and her reason for writing the original book was to inform people about the conditions [of slavery in the United States]… The second book was in defense of the first.” 


Herschel Johnson recommended a book called Bound for the Promised Land:  Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson, a children’s book called DK Biography: Harriet Tubman by Kem Knapp Sawyer, and a collection of works by William Still documenting the first person narratives of those escaping to Freedom on the Underground Railroad.  

“As you ran away, you would go from one safe house to the other until you reached Philadelphia. You would meet William Still in Philadelphia, and he kept records: your name, where you came from, how you got there. He tried to record everything he was told by the people who escaped.” 


Diane Miller urges everyone to visit the Network to Freedom’s website for a curated listing of resources, sites, and events – both virtual and socially distanced. She shared that virtual visitors can even get downloadable passport stamps for their National Park Passports by taking part in virtual tours of a number of sites in Maryland that are part of the Network to Freedom, including the C&O Canal in Williamsport, Catoctin Furnace Historic Site, Ferry Hill Plantation, and more.  


Julie Gilberto-Brady, in addition to the Harriet Tubman Byway’s audio guide, recommended the audio tours available from Visit Dorchester:

“We’ve gotten so many calls from people who are seeing the civil unrest in our nation and seeking to understand the history of what came before, of the struggles for freedom, starting with Underground Railroad history and up through civil rights. Many of the buildings on the tours may be closed, but the narration is engaging. There are reenactments by talented actors and firsthand oral accounts from people who lived the history, who can say in first person, ‘I was there.’  The tours include the Pine Street Tour, all about African American heritage, and the Chesapeake Mural Trail, which includes the ‘Take My Hand’ mural, featuring Harriet Tubman.” 


Bruce Russell recommended the Dorchester County Historical Society’s and Maryland State Archive’s articles  about Patty Cannon, who kidnapped enslaved people and free Black people around the area of the Delaware-Maryland border and sold them to plantations farther south. Among other sources, he recommended Stealing Freedom Across the Mason-Dixon Line by Milt Diggins. An overview of Diggin’s book is provided here   


Anthony Cohen recommended that people read A Shadow on the Household: One Enslaved Family’s Incredible Struggle for Freedom, a book by Bryan Prince, about a family in Montgomery County and their efforts over a decade to get their family members out of slavery. The Menare Foundation will also have a new resource coming out in 2021, a book entitled Great Escapes: Journeys on Maryland’s Underground Railroad. It has been funded in part by Heritage Montgomery and will include historical accounts plus recommendations for driving, bicycling, and walking routes across Maryland. 

Note: the views expressed in this blog belong to those who kindly agreed to be interviewed. As a state agency, the Maryland Historical Trust does not endorse any specific businesses or publications. 

International Underground Railroad Month in Maryland, Part I: “I See the Underground Railroad Everywhere”

International Underground Railroad Month in Maryland, Part I: “I See the Underground Railroad Everywhere”

Q&A Compiled By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator  

The Underground Railroad followed both natural and man-made transportation routes, many of which are still around us today. I see the Underground Railroad everywhere in Maryland, but in its modern form. We think of the safe houses and documenting those, but the process, the journey, that is where Maryland can excel in providing unique tourism experiences, where people can actually walk, bicycle, and drive on those very same routes, in those same landscapes.”

 – Anthony Cohen, Menare Foundation

September 2020 marks the second annual International Underground Railroad Heritage Month, recognizing the places and people that played important roles in Underground Railroad history. For this two-part blog post, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) staff spoke with six of the many people across the state who steward and champion this history, not just in September but year-round. We asked them to share insights and to recommend a few places and resources that Marylanders and visitors should take note of as this month’s observance comes to a close. (Please note: as a state agency, the Maryland Historical Trust does not endorse any specific businesses mentioned here. For a more comprehensive list of Maryland’s Underground Railroad resources, please visit the Maryland Office of Tourism.)

The Harriet Tubman Mural “Take My Hand” by Michael Rosato is located on the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Maryland Office of Tourism

For this first blog post, we asked one question:

Where should we go to learn about the Underground Railroad in Maryland? 


Mark Thorne, Historic Site Manager at Josiah Henson Museum and Park, recommended two Montgomery Parks sites, each exploring distinct facets of the Underground Railroad story.  The Josiah Henson Museum and Park, when it opens later this year, will share the story of Reverend Josiah Henson, who escaped to freedom in Canada, established a settlement there, and lead over 100 others to freedom. Located within the boundaries of Heritage Montgomery, the museum and park occupy the site of the farm where Henson was enslaved by Isaac Riley before he fled on the Underground Railroad. This newly established site is expected to open by 2021 and has received grant funds for exhibits from MHAA.

Henson’s story as a conductor on the Underground Railroad is well documented largely because he authored an autobiographical work about his life, and Harriet Beecher Stowe used this work as source material for her widely circulated work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  

He [Henson] came back into the United States to rescue enslaved people many times, meaning risking himself, risking his livelihood and his own life to free those 118 people over multiple trips… Dresden [also called the Dawn Settlement, which Henson established in Canada] could almost be considered an ‘Eden’ for those [formerly enslaved people] that made it there because – not only did he take them in – but he also taught them trades… He gave them a start in life. Part of his entrepreneurial story is about the walnut furniture that he was making at his township from his mill. He purchased this property, he started up a saw mill, started making furniture, and then the furniture was so incredible that he was invited to exhibit at the first World’s Fair, and that’s how he met the Queen of England, Queen Victoria.” 

Mr. Thorne also recommended visiting Woodlawn Manor and Cultural Park. The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but the grounds, including the Underground Railroad Experience Trail, are open to the public, free of charge. On Saturdays this fall, guided hikes of the trail are offered for $6 per person. The capacity of the hikes is limited, and hikers must follow social distancing guidelines. Interested visitors should sign up in advance online. If families want to walk the trail on their own, they can download the trail map.  

 The trail leads visitors through the types of landscapes that freedom seekers in Maryland would have navigated on their journeys, highlighting natural features, such as a hollow tree [pictured here], that were often used by those escaping slavery in Maryland.  

Stop number five on Woodlawn’s Underground Railroad Experience Trail is the “Hollow Tree and Boundary Stone.” The self-guided tour notes that “large hollow trees such as this one were often used by fugitives as hiding places” and that “boundary stones were often used as
markers for people trying to follow the trail north.” Photo by MHAA staff

Herschel Johnson was born and raised in Dorchester County, a region now known as the birthplace of Harriet Tubman, who escaped to freedom and eventually rescued about 70 others from slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Mr. Johnson serves as curator for the Stanley Institute, a one-room African American school that was founded just after the Civil War, and volunteers with the Harriet Tubman Museum. Mr. Johnson also offers personalized, social-distanced tours of both the Stanley Institute and other Underground Railroad sites in the area. The Stanley Institute has received a number of African American Heritage Preservation Program grants over the years.  

Mr. Johnson recommended that, when they re-open for visits, both the Maryland State Park Service’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek and the Harriet Tubman Museum located on Race Street in Cambridge are must-visit sites to learn about Tubman’s story.  The visitor center received an MHAA grant for their grand opening event in 2017.

“The Harriet Tubman Museum on Race Street was originally established because some of the relatives of Harriet Tubman wanted to share the history as early as the 1990s – that’s when they got the building – and there you can get a more personal history of Harriet Tubman because the docents there, when they’re open again… when they talk about Harriet Tubman, they make it personal.” 

Mr. Johnson also recommended the Stanley Institute, which is currently open by appointment only, the Bucktown Village Store, and the Little Black Water River for its evocative landscape that would have been similar to how Harriet Tubman experienced it. 


Diane Miller, Program Manager for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, was part of the team that developed interpretive exhibits for the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center in Church Creek. Ms. Miller recommended that people drive the Harriet Tubman Byway in Dorchester and Caroline Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

“There is a really excellent audio guide that gives interpretation as you’re driving through the landscape. You can download and listen to it on your phone. It’s excellent storytelling, very compelling, and I think it’s a great driving tour you can do, especially in this era of COVID. You don’t have to get out and go into buildings, many of which are closed right now. But you can still get almost as much out of it just driving the landscape and listening to the stories.” 

One site in particular along the Byway that Ms. Miller highlighted was Adkins Aboretum and their self-guided tour entitled A Journey Begins: Nature’s Role in the Flight to Freedom

This video, produced by Adkins Aboretum, highlights features in the landscape that serve as stops on their self-guided tour focused on freedom seekers’ experiences.

“They [Adkins Aboretum] have done an excellent job of talking about how Freedom seekers moved through the landscape and types of plants they might have used or how they might have used the terrain to hide, and they did most all of it with quotes from formerly enslaved people’s narratives and first person accounts.”

The arboretum tour was funded in part by the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. The site’s grounds are currently open from dawn to dusk. 


Julie Gilberto-Brady, Heritage Area Manager for the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, works closely with a number of sites in Dorchester County that highlight the region’s Underground Railroad history. One of the heritage area’s nine themes focuses on Harriet Tubman and Eastern Shore African- American History.

“The Underground Railroad history is without a doubt something that sets us [Dorchester County] apart from other places in Maryland because of the unique stories of escape and heroism that happened in this region, but – at the same time – this is shared history because it connects us to other Underground Railroad sites in Maryland and across the country, all part of a vast network of sites.”

Ms. Gilberto-Brady recommended that visitors seek out a new temporary sculpture installation, a 9-foot, 2,400-pound bronze sculpture entitled “Harriet Tubman: Journey to Freedom,” which was unveiled on Saturday, September 12, in front of the Dorchester County Courthouse and will remain on display until October 9, 2020. The sculpture is pictured below.

“This amazing sculpture, by internationally recognized artist Wesley Wofford, is traveling through the United States this year, and we really are thrilled to be able to support this project with a Heritage Area mini-grant to the Alpha Genesis Community Development Corporation, the organization which coordinated the arrangements for the sculpture’s stop in Cambridge.” 

Photo courtesy of Wesley Wofford and Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area

Ms. Gilberto-Brady also recommended that visitors plan to see the new Black Lives Matter Mural on Race Street in Cambridge, near the Harriet Tubman Museum. She explained: The mural is not something that will always be here. The paint is expected to fade, but it reflects our times and how our community responds to our times, and it highlights Underground Railroad history because of the people depicted. The local artist, Miriam Moran, created the images inside each of the letters representing Underground Railroad and civil rights icons with a connection to Cambridge or the Eastern Shore. The images include Harriet Tubman, Gloria Richardson, Frederick Douglass and Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley. Another letter reflects the design of the Maryland flag, and another was signed by all the volunteers who came together to work on the mural. After the mural was completed, someone vandalized it with their truck, burning rubber on the mural. The driver later turned himself in and then joined the volunteers back at the mural where he helped to repaint and repair the damage.” 


Bruce Russell, Board President for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, has been leading the organization’s project to create and install a new exhibit that will focus on Underground Railroad history on the Upper Chesapeake Bay and in the broader watershed. The museum is located in the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, and has benefited from MHAA grant funding for the exhibit.

Mr. Russell explained that the museum had been planning a full weekend of grand opening activities for the new exhibit, but this will now be delayed until people can gather safely. The grand opening will be promoted widely once a date is set. People may still visit the museum now on a limited schedule. Social distancing and masks are required. Stay tuned for details on the upcoming exhibit.  

This sculpture by Anyta Thomas is one of the pieces of art commissioned for the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum’s new exhibit. It depicts Daniel Hughes, who — according to his family’s oral history accounts — served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, transporting logs down the Susquehanna River and leading formerly enslaved people to freedom. Photo courtesy of the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum

Anthony Cohen runs the Menare Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve the legacy of the Underground Railroad. The Foundation has received funding from MHAA for emergency operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Cohen recommended visiting Button Farm Living History Center, a hands-on history center located on Maryland State Park land in Germantown and one of the Foundation’s active projects. Mr. Cohen added that the farm raises heritage breed animals and historically accurate 19th Century crops. 

“It’s [Button Farm] all based on a sensory experience we first created for Oprah Winfrey when she prepared for her role in the film Beloved. We also interpret the journeys of the Underground Railroad at the site and beyond.”  

Button Farm has been closed to the public during the pandemic but has just re-opened to limited capacity using a reservation system.  

Mr. Cohen also highlighted another project of the Menare Foundation, Chesapeake Tours, which offers interpretation at a variety of historic sites throughout Maryland. He recommended that the James Webb Cabin in Caroline County and the Bucktown Village Store in Dorchester County are a couple examples of sites that visitors may want to experience, either as part of a guided – outdoor, social-distanced – experience or using the Harriet Tubman Byway’s audio guide

More Sites to Visit

In the Southern Maryland Heritage Area, sites interpreting Underground Railroad history include Historic Sotterley, recognized as a UNESCO Slave Route Site of Remembrance, and Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, among others.  

The Four Rivers Heritage Area has also compiled a curated list of sites in Anne Arundel County where visitors can go to learn more about Underground Railroad history in September 2020 and beyond.  

Even more links to Maryland’s Underground Railroad sites and resources are compiled on the Maryland Office of Tourism‘s website.

In part two of this blog, we will share the same experts’ responses on the following topics: things that have surprised them about Underground Railroad history in Maryland, how this history informs how they see Maryland’s landscapes, and books – and other resources – they recommend for those seeking to learn more.

Maryland Heritage Areas Authority Makes a Big Change to Broaden Access to Funding for Applicants

By Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrator

At its July 2020 meeting, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) made a substantial change to matching fund requirements, eliminating the longstanding 75% cash match requirement for all MHAA grants. Instead, MHAA will accept any combination of cash and in-kind match to fulfill the one-to-one matching requirement going forward. This change means that organizations are permitted to match MHAA grants with primarily volunteer time and donated services and materials, if that form of match makes sense for the proposed project.  

Importantly, MHAA staff and the local heritage areas hope that this change will foster a more diverse pool of grant applicants and generally more equitable grant making to organizations that are rich in community support but have limited access to cash. While the next MHAA grant round will not open until January 2021, potential applicants should be aware of this change now in order to begin planning their heritage tourism and education projects. 

“This requirement change could potentially be a game changer for many of our small organizations, who previously were unable to apply for funding through our Heritage Area. We are excited to see new heritage related projects come to the table with this change.”

– Kim Folk, Director for the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area

On many occasions over the years, potential grant applicants contacted MHAA with excellent projects but with limited access to additional non-state funds to serve as a required match. For example, an applicant seeking $10,000 to create a new exhibit in a small museum or to install updated signage on a local trail might have lined up experts in their field of study who were willing to donate their time. They may have gained the support of local businesses who committed to donate materials and services to the project. The value of these donated volunteer hours, materials, and services (in-kind match) might add up to over $10,000 in support. Yet, under the old policy, if the applicant could not demonstrate that they would spend the requested grant funds plus another $7,500 in already-secured cash on the project, they would be ineligible to receive the grant. Under the new matching funds policy, this applicant would have more than enough in-kind match to apply for and receive an MHAA grant.  

Why make this change now?  

MHAA made the decision to change the matching requirements, adding flexibility in the types of matching funds accepted, over the course of several meetings. The change follows feedback from constituents and public input in PreserveMaryland II, the statewide preservation plan, which recommends that the state’s financial incentive programs “evaluate barriers to access… and improve equity in outcomes.” While MHAA is planning a working group to discuss broader equity initiatives, MHAA members, program staff, and the local heritage areas agreed that this change to match requirements is a way to reduce barriers to access immediately, while other efforts are ongoing.  

“The Maryland Heritage Area Program has been striving to broaden access to its granting program.  To lower the barrier of a large cash match will literally ‘open the gates’ to under-served communities and organizations in this rural region [southern Maryland].”

– Lucille Walker, Co-Chair of the Maryland Coalition of Heritage Areas and Executive Director of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area

Why does the program have a matching fund requirement in the first place?  

Since its establishment in 1996, one of MHAA’s key program requirements is that grantees also contribute funds to their projects, equivalent to the amount of the grant (one-to-one match).  

The idea behind this policy is that matching grants for heritage tourism and education projects will create more economic activity and, ultimately, jobs in Heritage Areas because they leverage more investment in Maryland’s cultural and natural resources. This economic impact study helps illustrate the effects of MHAA’s grant program on Maryland’s economy. An updated, more comprehensive study is being finalized now and should be available by early 2021.

A map of Maryland’s 13 Certified Heritage Areas
Projects must be located within one of the Heritage Areas to be eligible for MHAA grant funding. Click the image above to zoom in or visit Medusa to conduct a more detailed search. Be sure to turn on the Maryland Heritage Areas layer in Medusa to see the boundaries.

How does my non-profit or government organization apply 
for an MHAA grant? 

MHAA will be offering workshops for the next round of potential grant applicants in December 2020 and January 2021, and full applications will be due in early spring of 2021 for Fiscal Year 2022 funding. For more information about the MHAA grant program, please visit https://mht.maryland.gov/heritageareas.shtml, reach out to your local heritage area, and sign up for the Maryland Department of Planning’s electronic mailing list here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/MDMDP/subscriber/new?qsp=CODE_MHT New subscribers should be sure to indicate that they are interested in “historic preservation” in order to receive emails regarding this grant program and similar opportunities.  

Questions about the program and grant eligibility can be directed to MHAA Administrator Jen Ruffner (jen.ruffner@maryland.gov) and Assistant Administrators, Andrew Arvizu (andrew.arvizu@maryland.gov) and Ennis Smith (ennis.smith@maryland.gov). 

Highlighting the Maryland Heritage Areas Program’s New Grants Review Panel

By Andrew Arvizu and Ennis Barbery Smith, MHAA Assistant Administrators

Top row (left to right): Heather Ersts, Emily Falone, Kevin McDonald, Marina Herrera, Mary Callis, Eric Beckett, Tony Spencer; Middle row (left to right): Meagan Baco, Jacqueline Woodruff, Peter Morrill, John Seidel, Larry Brown, Ashley Samonisky; Bottom row (left to right): Francisco Ayala, Michial Gill, Tina Busko, Anne Raines, Rico Newman, Cathy Hardy Thompson, Nathan Cabrera

The Maryland Heritage Areas Program went about grants review differently this year. Due to COVID-19, the program held all of its grants review meetings and training sessions virtually, which presented some challenges, from difficult-to-hear audio to confusion about how to call-in. However, there were also bright spots. Reviewers stayed in their own homes across the state, where they could spread out their grants review materials, and – most importantly – they convened safely.

The more substantial change to the grants review process was who reviewed the 169 applications, requesting $7.7 million dollars in grant funds. This winter the Maryland Heritage Areas Program successfully formed a new Grants Review Panel, made up of 20 Marylanders who represent a wide range of areas of expertise related to heritage tourism and education.

In fall of 2019, the program held an open call for panelists, inviting members of the public to be a part of the FY 21 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grants review process for the first time ever. Nearly 70 nominations were received, including nominations from six state agencies that are represented on MHAA, as well as nominations from Maryland’s ethnic and cultural commissions.

Today, we are highlighting the 20 panelists who attentively pored over budgets and project timelines, who learned the ins and outs of MHAA grants review over a series of group video calls, and who tirelessly weighed the merits of the many applications over two all-day virtual grants review meetings in June 2020.

The panelists include:

Francisco Ayala (Frederick, MD)
Francisco Ayala is representing the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. He currently works as an Engagement Specialist for Kaiser Permanente. Previously, he studied Economics at Tecnológico De Monterrey with an emphasis on statistical analysis and business growth.

Meagan Baco (Baltimore City, MD)
Meagan Baco is the Director of Communications at Preservation Maryland, the state’s largest and oldest non-profit dedicated to Maryland’s history and heritage. Meagan is an inaugural fellow of the ARCUS Preservation Leadership program, and the Baltimore Planning Academy. They earned an M.S. in Historic Preservation from Clemson University and the College of Charleston, and a B.A. in Environmental Design from SUNY Buffalo. Previously, Meagan was Acting President of Preservation Action and a Historic Preservation Specialist at Clinton Brown Company Architecture. At Preservation Maryland, Meagan leads the organization’s state and national communications including major programs, like the Campaign for Historic Trades, Smart Growth Maryland, and PreserveCast. They also manage several public history projects including initiatives related to Maryland suffragists, labor history at Baltimore’s mills, and the first-of-its-kind Maryland LGBTQ Historic Context Statement.

Eric Beckett, Maryland Department of Transportation
Eric Beckett is the Deputy Director of the Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering at the Maryland Department of Transportation. He entered this position after completing his M.A. in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. With over eleven years of experience in the state agency, Eric brings a wealth of administrative and logistical knowledge. In the recent past, he has participated on grant reviews for the Transportation Alternatives, Safe Routes to Schools, and the Recreational Trails programs. Eric is representing the Maryland Department of Transportation and previously served on MHAA’s Technical Advisory Committee.   

Larry Brown, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
Larry D. Brown, Jr. is the Assistant Director of the Baltimore Region for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. He has a long tenure of service working for the state, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods, and Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Baltimore. He is committed to fostering community engagement and supporting equitable growth. He has over 13 years of experience in grant-making, project management, and administration. He received his B.S. in Management Science from Coppin State University and a Masters of Divinity from Family Bible College and Seminary. Larry is representing the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of Neighborhood Revitalization.

Tina Busko (Berlin, MD)
Tina Busko is the Executive Director of the Rackliffe House Trust. She received her B.S. in Horticulture and History from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After moving to Maryland with her family, she worked as a Naturalist at Assateague State Park. In her current position, at the Rackliffe House Trust, she has become an expert in heritage tourism, grant writing, and administration.

Nathan Cabrera (Dundalk, MD)
Nathan is responsible for outreach and partnership development at Volunteer Maryland, an AmeriCorps program within the Maryland Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. Nathan has received his B.S in Business Marketing and over his career has worked with merchants incorporating the National Main Street program to help grantees with commercial improvements, homeowners with curb appeal projects, host community events, grow social media presence and website design. In addition he’s overseen hundreds of volunteers and partnered with community leaders to help with clean-up and greening initiatives. Nathan’s friendly manner, can-do attitude, and tireless energy is used to build relationships and reaching people all across the State of Maryland.

Mary Callis (Oakland, MD)
Mary Callis is the Executive Director of the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival. Over her ten-year tenure as director she has engaged her community, built lasting partnerships, managed grants, and significantly grown the organization. She has a strong understanding of the impact of heritage tourism and the role that heritage can play in supporting community development.

Heather Ersts, Maryland Department of Commerce
Heather Ersts is the Partnership and Outreach Manager of the Department of Commerce Maryland Office of Tourism Development. She has over 25 years of experience in the museum field, including tenures at the Annapolis Maritime Museum and Historic Annapolis Foundation. She received her B.A. in History from the University of Maryland College Park, MA in History from George Mason University and her MA in the History of American Decorative Arts from Parsons School of Design/The Smithsonian Associates. Her professional experience has made her an expert in public history, grant writing/administration, and marketing. Heather is representing the Maryland Office of Tourism and served on MHAA’s Technical Advisory Committee.  

Emily Falone (Elkton, MD)
Emily Falone has thirty years of experience as the Delaware State Administrator for Emergency Programs. There, she oversaw numerous state and federal grants and chaired grant review boards. After retiring from her position with the State of Delaware, Emily has applied her expertise at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, where she currently works. She holds a B.S. in Biology and Geology from CUNY Brooklyn College and an M.S. in Geology from the University of Delaware.

Michial Gill, Ph.D., Maryland State Department of Education
Dr. Gill is the Director of Grants Administration at the Maryland State Department of Education. He received his B.S. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Carolina-Columbia, his M.A. in Business Management from Webster University, and his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Morgan State University. With over 20 years of experience working with the state, Dr. Gill possesses a mastery of grants management and administration. Dr. Gill is representing the Maryland State Department of Education.

Marina Herrera (Accokeek, MD)
Marina Herrera is the Development Manager at the Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park, where she is responsible for managing and driving communication campaigns and annual fundraising to engage donors and supporters. Prior to joining the Accokeek Foundation, Marina worked in nonprofit development in the higher education space and, before that, as a nurse in geriatrics and Alzheimer’s/dementia care. She received her B.A. in English Studies from the University of New Mexico.

Kevin McDonald (North Bethesda, MD)
Kevin McDonald is the Digital Strategy Assistant at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. He received his B.A. in Archaeology and Drama from Tufts University before completing his M.A. in Applied Anthropology and his Graduate Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture at the University of Maryland, College Park. His academic works, including “An Ethnobotany of the Vaults: A Student Reflection on Anthropology, Biocultural Collections, and Museum Research” and “How death disappeared from Halloween” have been published in esteemed journals like Practicing Anthropology. As a museum professional, he has extensive experience and expertise with exhibit planning, grant writing, and public outreach across the arts and culture sector.

Peter Morrill, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Peter Morrill is the Curatorship and Cultural Resources Manager at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. He completed his B.A. in Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston. With experience working for the National Park Service, Delaware State Parks, and the Maryland Historical Trust, Peter is an expert preservationist with experience in research, project management, grant writing, and property acquisition. He currently serves as a board member for Baltimore Heritage and the Maryland Military Monuments Commission. Peter is representing the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and served on MHAA’s Technical Advisory Committee.

Rico Newman (University Park, MD)
Rico Newman is a member of the Elders Council of the Choptico Band of Piscataway Indians. He retired from a career as a Cultural Information Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and spent six years serving on the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. He currently devotes time to the Accokeek Foundation as a board member and resides in University Park, Maryland.

Anne Raines, Maryland Historical Trust
Anne B. Raines is Deputy Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer at the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), part of the Maryland Department of Planning.  After earning her Bachelor of Architecture at North Carolina State University, she worked for several years as an architect in the US and UK. She earned her M.Sc. in Architectural Conservation with distinction from Edinburgh College of Art (University of Edinburgh) in 2009; returning to the US, she worked as Capital Grants and Loans Administrator at MHT until assuming her current position in 2017. She is representing the Maryland Historical Trust on the panel.

Ashley Samonisky (Cambridge, MD)
Ashley Samonisky is the project manager of Vision Planning and Consulting, LLC. She has an extensive history of working with federal, state and local government in the fields of hazard mitigation, stakeholder engagement, and public outreach. She completed her B.S. in Emergency management at the University of Maryland and her B.S. in Geography at Salisbury University. Her capstone project centered on researching and mapping historic cemeteries in Dorchester County. In her current role at Vision Planning and Consulting, she uses her project management experience to offer guidance to state and local governments on a variety of projects.

John Seidel, Ph.D. (Chestertown, MD)
Dr. Seidel is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College. He received a B.A. in Anthropology and Political Science from Drew University and M.A.s in American Civilization and Anthropology before completing his Ph.D. in Historical Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. Professionally, Dr. Seidel has over 40 years of experience in preservation and archaeology. Further, he has served on the board of numerous historical organizations including the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, the Maryland Humanities Council’s History Matters! Program, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Anthony “Tony” Spencer (Annapolis, MD)
Born, raised, and educated in Anne Arundel County, Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer has an extensive background as an artist, as well as experience in public administration and a track record of serving his community. His CV includes time spent in the United States Marine Corps and a 23-year career with the Annapolis Fire Department. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and has served on the Anne Arundel County Public School Board, on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and as a grants evaluator for the Maryland State Board of Education. Mr. Spencer serves on and is representing the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

Read more about Spencer, who chaired the new Grants Review Panel in its inaugural year, in a previous blog post.

Cathy Hardy Thompson (Charles County, MD)
Cathy Hardy Thompson is currently the Preservation and Long Range Planning Program Manager for the government of Charles County. Over the past 15 years, she has worked in a variety of capacities for the Charles County Government, including historic sites surveyor, preservation planner, and program manager. She has extensive experience writing and administering grants that support critical heritage tourism products.

Jacqueline Woodruff (Bowie, MD)
Jacqueline Woodruff serves as Grants Manager for the Maryland State Department of Education. She has an M.A. in Business Administration from the University of Maryland University College. This education led her to an impressive work history that includes serving as the acting program director at Lockheed Martin, as the regional coordinator of the Y in Central Maryland, and the executive director of The Vision Foundation. In her current role as grants manager, Jacqueline secures critical federal support for Maryland’s Department of Education. She is an expert in grant-making, project management and administration.

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MHAA staff have been amazed by all the ways in which the panelists adapted to each new situation gracefully, and we look forward to working with them again next year. The panel’s recommendations for award will be reviewed at the Maryland Heritage Area Authority virtual meeting on July 9, 2020, which is open to the public.

Announcing the Chair of the Maryland Heritage Areas Program’s New Grants Review Panel

By Ennis Barbery Smith, Assistant Administrator, Maryland Heritage Areas Program

The Maryland Heritage Areas Program is thrilled to announce the successful formation of its new Grants Review Panel, made up of 20 individuals from across the state of Maryland. The 20 panelists represent a wide range of areas of expertise – heritage tourism, public art, historic preservation, education, project management, museums, marketing, and other fields – all of which relate to the types of projects that are eligible for funding from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA).

In autumn of 2019, the program held an open call for panelists, inviting members of the public to nominate themselves or others to review MHAA grants in FY 2021. As part of the process, six state agencies nominated representatives with relevant expertise, and MHAA staff invited Maryland’s seven ethnic and cultural commissions to nominate panelists. In total, nearly 70 nominations were received.

The 20 individuals who will make up the FY 2021 Grants Review Panel are diverse not only in terms of expertise, but also in terms of racial and ethnic background, gender, and geographic associations. The Panel includes Commissioners from the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, and the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. It also includes representatives from the all corners of the State: from Garrett County in the west to Worcester County on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer will chair the new Grants Review Panel in its inaugural year. Spencer was nominated to serve on the Panel by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, on which he also serves as a Commissioner.

Mr. Anthony J. “Tony” Spencer, Chair of the Maryland Heritage Areas Program’s Grants Review Panel

Born, raised, and educated in Anne Arundel County, Spencer has an extensive background as an artist, as well as a background in public administration and a track record of serving his community. His CV includes time spent in the United States Marine Corps and a 23-year career with the Annapolis Fire Department. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and has served on the Anne Arundel County Public School Board, on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and as a grants evaluator for the Maryland State Board of Education. Currently, he devotes his time to the arts. He is the founder of A. J. Spencer Consultants, LLC and Enrapture Records. Plus, he manages a career as a performing artist, which has included appearances with a host of local, regional, national, and international artists and philharmonic orchestras.

Spencer shared these thoughts on his new role as Chair: “I have come to understand the value of giving back and serving the greater community. Serving with the Maryland Heritage Areas Program as a grant evaluator provides me the opportunity to ensure that the communities and organizations within Maryland have access to resources to research, preserve, present, and celebrate our collective histories.”

The deadline for Intent-to-Apply forms – the first step in the MHAA application process – was January 31, 2020, and the Program received over 240 forms, requesting over $10.4 million in grant funds. With such a strong turnout, MHAA staff are expecting a large number of applications this year. The panelists will soon be busy reviewing the applications, and the Program is grateful for their willingness to read, review, and rank the hundreds of applications that come in each year. The panelists’ duties will also include participating in a training session and two day-long grants review meetings. Be on the lookout for our follow-up blog post, which will include more panelist profiles!

Baltimore National Heritage Area Uses Increased State Funding to Develop Innovative Neighborhood Placemaking Grant Program

By Ennis Barbery Smith, Maryland Heritage Areas Program Assistant Administrator

In years past, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) has provided up to $15,000 annually to each of the 13 Certified Heritage Areas across the state of Maryland for locally-administered “mini-grant” programs, but starting last year MHAA increased this funding level to $25,000 per heritage. Compared with the larger project grants available through MHAA, mini-grants allow Certified Heritage Areas to support smaller-scale projects, activities, and partners.

A map of Maryland’s 13 Certified Heritage Areas

This funding increase allowed the Baltimore National Heritage Area (BNHA) to design and launch the Neighborhood Placemaking Grant Program, which provides funding to help neighborhoods in the heritage area become visitor-ready and highlight the unique cultural heritage that each neighborhood has to offer. Eligible projects fall into three categories:

  • Navigate Your Neighborhood: Festivals, performances, re-enactments, and events that promote heritage tourism and attract visitors
  • Plan for Your Neighborhood: Planning and feasibility studies for capital projects, vacant lot development planning, and project evaluations
  • Green Your Neighborhood: Projects that promote neighborhood greening activities, environmental stewardship, cleanliness, beautification, and citizen community education

The overwhelming response that this grant program received has revealed a significant need for funding to support these types of projects in Baltimore City. While $25,000 was made available for the program from MHAA, BNHA received requests for funding that totaled over $80,000. The heritage area ended up pulling in additional funding from another source in order to award $27,945 total to seven important projects. Shauntee Daniels, Executive Director of BNHA underscored the importance of the Neighborhood Placemaking Grants, when she explained that “every neighborhood has a story.”

Community members celebrate one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods at the Jonestown Festival, funded in part by a Neighborhood Placemaking Grant. Photo by Will Kirk, courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore National Heritage Area

Daniels emphasized that many of the neighborhoods’ stories are centered around immigration: “All of these little enclaves of neighborhoods were brought together and built by people who came here as cultural groups.” She described how the area around the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore, known as Jonestown, is a good example of a neighborhood with an engaging story to tell, but – all-too-often – museum visitors pass right through the neighborhood itself. The Jewish Museum received a Neighborhood Placemaking Grant to help fund the annual Jonestown Festival in 2019, highlighting the neighborhood’s engaging history.

Another view of visitors enjoying the Jonestown Festival, funded in part by a Neighborhood Placemaking Grant. Photo by Will Kirk, courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore National Heritage Area

The China Town Collective also received one of the inaugural Neighborhood Placemaking Grants to support their second-ever “Charm City Night Market.”  Steph Hsu of the Collective said, “The Charm City Night Market celebrates the cultural exchange of Asian Americans in Baltimore City…. Thanks to the funding from the Neighborhood Placemaking Grant we were able to expand our possibilities with signage, wayfinding, and lighting, which will include lanterns designed by a local entrepreneur.”

In addition to creating opportunities for visitors, the Neighborhood Placemaking Grants have encouraged collaborations within and between communities across the heritage area. Kim Lane, Executive Director of Pigtown Main Street in Baltimore, offered this insight: “We shared it [the Neighborhood Placemaking Grant opportunity] with our partners in our area, which resulted in conversations that lead to a group of community leaders from Pigtown Main Street, Pigtown, Barre Circle, Ridgely’s Delight and Camden Carroll forming a committee to plan a heritage walk.” 

This newly rebranded and reimagined mini-grant program builds on BNHA’s “Heritage Neighborhoods” goal, which calls on the heritage area to “assist visitor friendly neighborhoods offering heritage experiences” and specifically mentions “emerging heritage neighborhoods,” tasking BNHA with meeting neighborhoods where they are and supporting them in the early stages of becoming visitor-ready.

BNHA is currently accepting applications for this year’s round of Neighborhood Placemaking Grants. The deadline to apply is December 9. Read more about this opportunity on their website.