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.

Women’s Suffrage in Maryland (Guest Blog)

By Nicole Diehlmann

The quest for women’s suffrage represents over 70 years of activism that ultimately resulted in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, on August 18, 1920. The movement relied on a complicated grassroots network of affiliated national, state, and local organizations that were often fraught with divisions over race, strategy, and tactics. These organizations were predominantly comprised of white upper- and middle-class women, although some efforts were made to engage poorer women. White suffragists nearly always excluded black women, who formed their own segregated organizations such as the Progressive Women’s Suffrage Club established in Baltimore by Estelle Young. Black suffragists advocated not only for women’s suffrage but also for a host of other civil rights legislation. Overall, the movement was decidedly nonviolent and relied on the power of persuasion and education to attract people to the cause.

The Just Government League headquarters at 817 N. Charles Street in Baltimore.
The Just Government League headquarters at 817 N. Charles Street in Baltimore. Photo: Nicole Diehlmann

The national movement began in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, but organized suffrage activity in Maryland did not gain much momentum until the end of the nineteenth century. In 1889 Caroline Hallowell Miller of Sandy Spring in Montgomery County established the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA). Despite the name, the organization consisted only of a small group of Quaker women in the county. When the Baltimore City Suffrage Club was established in 1894, the Sandy Spring group was renamed the Montgomery County Suffrage Association and both clubs allied under the umbrella of the MWSA. Meetings were originally held in member’s homes, but as the groups grew larger, they began using more public spaces, such as the Friends’ Meeting House on Park Avenue in Baltimore.

From the Maryland Suffrage News
From the Maryland Suffrage News

At the turn of the twentieth century, MWSA began hosting more and larger mass meetings to gain recruits. These meetings often featured nationally known suffragist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt and were held in large private halls or theaters like Heptasoph’s Hall and MedChi’s Osler Hall in Baltimore. Under the leadership of Emma Maddox Funck, who was elected MWSA president in 1904, the organization became more closely connected to the national movement, and the number of locally affiliated clubs grew. The growth of these local clubs led to a diversity of opinions regarding strategy and tactics and, ultimately, a fracturing of the movement. By 1910, there were three separate statewide suffrage organizations for white women competing for membership and control of statewide suffrage strategy. MWSA remained as the most conservative organization. Most of its members tended to be women who did not work outside the home, and these women generally acted within socially accepted norms for upper and middle-class women of the time. Edith Haughton Hooker’s Just Government League, which was comprised of many professional women, such as nurses, teachers, and businesswomen, was the most militant. Just Government League members brought their members and their message outside of traditional female-occupied spaces to more public forums like open air mass meetings. Elizabeth King Ellicott’s State Franchise League was somewhere between the two. Both the Just Government League and the State Franchise League developed broad grassroots campaigns, creating affiliated organizations in towns and counties throughout Maryland.

From the Maryland Suffrage News
The Just Government League marching on Cathedral Street in Baltimore. From the Maryland Suffrage News

The Just Government League was the most successful of the three organizations, growing its membership through persuasive marketing tactics, including its widely publicized suffrage hikes, where women would march from town to town carrying banners, distributing literature, and giving speeches in support of women’s suffrage. The first was held in January 1914, where the “Army of the Severn” marched from Baltimore to Annapolis to deliver a suffrage petition to the Maryland General Assembly. Hikes continued into 1915, visiting all corners of the state, including a Western Maryland hike in Allegany and Garrett Counties, a “pilgrimage” from Baltimore to St. Mary’s County to visit the homesite of Margaret Brent, considered Maryland’s first suffragist, and shorter hikes in Harford, Howard, and Montgomery Counties. Not only did these hikes garner much publicity through widespread newspaper coverage, they also boosted membership in local and statewide suffrage organizations, which was key to growing a broad base of support for women’s suffrage.

From the Maryland Suffrage News
From the Maryland Suffrage News

Despite their organization and tactics, Maryland suffragists were unsuccessful in convincing the Maryland General Assembly to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Both chambers decisively rejected ratification when it came up for a vote on February 17, 1920—the House by a vote of 64 to 36 and the Senate by 18 to 9. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Several days later, on August 26, 1920, US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the vote and proclaimed the Nineteenth Amendment to be part of the US Constitution. The decades-long struggle was finally over, and both white and black suffragists in Maryland quickly shifted to the task of preparing women to vote in the 1920 election; however, black women were still subject to Jim Crow-era rules and practices that sought to restrict  black citizens’ access to the vote. Equal suffrage for black women was not fully secured until the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Maryland General Assembly finally ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in a token vote on March 29, 1941, but the vote was not certified until March 25, 1958. Despite Maryland’s lack of decisive action on the amendment, Maryland suffragists, both black and white, made major contributions to the overall effort and their grassroots advocacy created a network of skilled female activists who continued to press for political and civic reforms in the state.

From the Maryland Suffrage News
From the Maryland Suffrage News

References

National Park Service. Maryland and the 19th Amendment. Last Updated May 12, 2020. https://www.nps.gov/articles/maryland-and-the-19th-amendment.htm.

Rohn, Kacy. 2017. The Maryland Women’s Suffrage Movement. Draft report available at the Maryland Historical Trust, Crownsville.

Williams, Lea M. 2020. Ellen N. La Motte: Nurse, Writer, Activist (England: Manchester University Press, 2020). https://www.google.com/books/edition/Ellen_N_La_Motte/0vi7DwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22Just+Government+League%22+maryland&pg=PT69&printsec=frontcover

The Civil Rights Movement, Segregation, & Slavery in Maryland: A (Brief) Reading List

By Lara Westwood, Librarian

This past week, protests occurred in all fifty states and across the globe to fight against racism, inequality, and police brutality in the United States in the wake of the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among many others. For those looking to learn more about the historical context for these events, here is a short reading list on the civil rights movement, segregation, and slavery in Maryland. 

Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland by C. Fraser Smith
Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland by C. Fraser Smith

Ancestors of Worthy Life: Plantation Slavery and Black Heritage at Mount Clare by Teresa S Moyer & Paul A Shackel, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015

Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City by P. Nicole King, Kate Drabinski, Joshua Clark Davis, et al., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2019

Civil War on Race Street: the Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland by Peter B Levy, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004

Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland by C. Fraser Smith, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

John Brown to James Brown: the Little Farm Where Liberty Budded, Blossomed and Boogied by Ed Maliskas, Hagerstown, Maryland: Hamilton Run Press, 2016

Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Inc., 2012

Road to Jim Crow: the African American Struggle on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, 1860-1915 by C. Christopher Brown, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016

Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore by Seth Rockman, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ©2009

Seeking Freedom: a History of the Underground Railroad in Howard County, Maryland by Paulina C Moss, Levirn Hill, Howard County Center of African American Culture et al, Columbia, Md.: Howard County Center of African American Culture, 2002

This list is by no means exhaustive but a starting point for those seeking more information. These books can be found at your local library or favorite independent bookstore. Let us know your recommendations in the comments section!

The Journey Home

By Rebecca Morehouse, Curator of State Collections, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab

In 1980, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded a project to build townhouses in the block between what is now City Gate Lane and Dean Street in Annapolis. Excavation of the townhouse basements disturbed a portion of what was later identified as a 19th-century African American family cemetery. When archeologists at the Maryland Historical Trust heard of the discovery, they went to the site to rescue the human remains that had been exposed. They carefully mapped, photographed, and removed what turned out to be the partial remains of two individuals. In the event of this kind of inadvertent discovery, an archeologist’s priority is to identify what remains of the burials, document as much of the site as possible, and transfer any human remains to another location for protection. In the case of these two individuals, they were placed in the custody of MHT, and cared for at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab) at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), a unit of MHT.

Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis
Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

Little was known about these two individuals until research conducted by Janice Hayes-Williams in the early 2000s indicated their remains were likely removed from what had been the family cemetery of Smith Price. Price, formerly enslaved, came to Annapolis as a free man. He owned the property where an 1860s plat indicated his family cemetery was located, as well as the land where the Asbury United Methodist Church now stands less than a block away. Smith Price was a founding member of the African Meeting House in Annapolis, which eventually became the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1803, Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838, and then the Asbury United Methodist Church in 1968 (Figure 1).

While attending a meeting at the MAC Lab in April 2019, Janice Hayes-Williams asked me if the human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery were curated at the MAC Lab. When I told her they were, she asked if the remains could be returned to Annapolis and reburied there.  A flurry of correspondence soon followed, as MHT staff worked with the Office of the Attorney General to chart a course for the permanent transfer of the remains that would satisfy State regulations. 

The official request for transfer came from Asbury UMC in June 2019 and was quickly approved by the MHT Board of Trustees. The transfer took place on July 24, 2019 in a ceremony at Asbury UMC. In preparation for their trip to back to Annapolis, Janice Hayes-Williams wrapped the boxes which held the remains with Kente cloth and adorned them with sunflowers (Figure 2). I had the honor of assisting.

Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Once in the custody of the Asbury UMC, the church transferred the individuals to Dr. Julie Schablitsky, Chief Archaeologist at the Maryland State Highway Administration.  Dr. Schablitsky took the lead on coordinating the analysis of the remains, which included a detailed examination and inventory by Dr. Dana Kollmann, Forensic Anthropologist at Towson University, and facial reconstruction by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant (Figure 3). Dr. Schablitsky also arranged for DNA testing at DNA Labs International in Florida. Unfortunately, the extracted DNA was degraded and, while the scientists are still trying, they have been unable to match it to living descendants.

Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Analysis by Dr. Kollmann showed that the remains belonged to a man and a child of African ancestry. The man likely died sometime in his late forties or early fifties. Associated coffin nails dated to the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Though no personal artifacts were recovered with the skeletal remains, blue-green discoloration on the man’s left wrist indicates the presence of a copper alloy burial shroud pin, button, or cufflink. His skeleton showed evidence that he was muscular and would have participated in heavy physical labor. He had a minor injury to his left shin, which, while not resulting in a break, would have been painful. He also had arthritis in his right arm and shoulder, which would have also caused significant pain and hindered his movements. His teeth had  a well-defined pipe facet from carrying a tobacco pipe between his teeth on the right side of his mouth. The cause of the man’s death could not be determined.

The child, of unknown gender, likely died between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Copper alloy staining on the left temple suggests the child may have been wrapped in a burial shroud held in place with a copper alloy pin. The teeth show evidence of malnutrition or a significant illness, such as influenza. However, this did not contribute to the child’s death.

Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

On November 1, 2019, Maryland’s Emancipation Day, following a community ceremony at Asbury UMC, these two individuals were laid to rest for a second time in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis (Figures 4 and 5).

While MHT does not encourage the excavation of human remains, there are times when burials are threatened and must be removed, as with the case of the Smith Price family cemetery. Today, unlike in 1980, immediate relocation or reburial of disturbed human remains is now the preferred course of action, rather than being placed in the care of the State. On the occasion that human remains do end up in MHT’s custody, they are placed in a specially designated area, known as an appropriate place of repose, apart from the State’s other collections. This area is only accessible by MHT staff and is not visible to the public.

I consider the care of these individuals a sacred responsibility and one of the most important duties I have as Curator. However, if I am given the opportunity to help facilitate the return and reburial of human remains in MHT’s custody, I am honored to do so. Being able to participate in the preparation of the human remains, as well as the transfer and reburial ceremonies, was an experience which I will not soon forget.

Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Announcing FY2020 AAHPP grant recipients!

We are pleased to announce the FY2020 African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) grant recipients! Twelve projects were awarded funding for preservation projects throughout the state. Jointly administered by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Maryland Historical Trust, the AAHPP provides capital funds to assist in the preservation of buildings, sites, or communities of historical and cultural importance to the African American experience in Maryland. The Commission and MHT are excited to support these projects, which include unique sites such as a World War II memorial park, an early 20th century bowling alley, a historic swimming pool, and tunnels that were part of the Underground Railroad.  Read more about all our newly funded projects below.

If you are planning to apply for funding for a project, the FY2021 grant round will begin in the spring of 2020, with workshops in April and applications due in July. For more information about the AAHPP, please contact Charlotte Lake, Capital Grant and Loan Program Administrator, at charlotte.lake@maryland.gov. For information about organizations receiving grants, please contact the institutions directly.

Project: Sotterley Plantation: Slave Cabin – Hollywood, St. Mary’s County ($78,000) Sponsor: Historic Sotterley, Inc.

Sotterley Plantation is a 1703 Tidewater plantation with more than 20 original buildings still standing. After its restoration, the 1830s slave cabin was dedicated to Agnes Kane Callum, a Baltimore resident whose great-grandfather was born enslaved at Sotterley, and who was instrumental in telling the story of Sotterley’s enslaved community. The grant project will include repairs to the cabin as well as accessibility improvements to the paths leading to it.

Project: Fairmount Heights World War II Monument –Prince George’s County ($12,250) Sponsor: Town of Fairmount Heights

The Fairmount Heights World War II Monument was built in 1946 to honor local citizens who served in the armed forces during World War II. The grant project will include repairs to the monument and site improvements within the park.

Project: Liberty Grace Church of God: Bowling Alley – Baltimore City ($100,000) Sponsor: Liberty Grace Church of God, Inc.

Liberty Grace Church of God was built in 1922 and has an early 20th century bowling alley in its basement. This historic bowling alley will be restored to working order. Read more about the bowling alley in our earlier blog post!

Project: Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – Cambridge, Dorchester County ($100,000) Sponsor: Eastern Shore Network for Change, Inc.

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was constructed in 1903 and is the oldest African American church still standing in Cambridge. This grant will fund structural repairs to the church, as well as repairs to windows and doors.

Project: Emmanuel Episcopal Church: Tunnels – Cumberland, Allegany County ($100,000) Sponsor: Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Incorporated

Emmanuel Episcopal Church was built atop the remains of Fort Cumberland, forming a series of tunnels beneath the church that eventually came to be used as shelter by African Americans escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad. Local oral traditions describe a quilt panel with a cross on a hill representing Emmanuel Episcopal Church as a stop on the road to freedom. This project will improve lighting and ventilation in the tunnels, as well as improve accessibility for visitors touring the tunnels.

Project: Warren Historic Site: Warren United Methodist Church and Martinsburg Negro School – Dickerson, Montgomery County ($100,000) Sponsor: Warren Historic Site Committee, Inc.

The Warren Historic Site is likely the last in Maryland where the traditional triad of buildings constructed in most post-Emancipation African American communities – the church, school, and lodge hall – still exist. The grant project will include roof and foundation repairs on the church, as well as roof, foundation, and floor repairs on the school.

Project: McConchie One-Room School – La Plata, Charles County ($99,000) Sponsor: Charles County Fair, Inc.

The McConchie School was constructed around 1912 to serve African American children in central Charles County. The school was closed in 1952, was converted to a residence, and had been abandoned by 1980. The Charles County Fair purchased and moved the building to the fairgrounds in 1990. The grant project will include structural repairs so that the school can continue to be used as a museum.

Project: Zion United Methodist Church – Federalsburg, Caroline County ($100,000) Sponsor: Zion ME Church

Zion Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1931 and features stained glass windows and ornamental woodwork on its tower. The grant will fund accessibility and drainage improvements to the site, as well as structural repairs to the building.

Project: Robert W. Johnson Community Center: Swimming Pool – Hagerstown, Washington County ($100,000) Sponsor: Robert W Johnson Community Center, Inc.

In 1959, the North Street Swimming Pool was constructed as part of the Robert W. Johnson Community Center in Hagerstown’s Jonathan Street Neighborhood. It was the only pool in the city where African Americans could swim, and the pool itself is relatively unchanged since it was built. The grant project will repair the swimming pool so that it can be returned to community use.

Project: Ellsworth Cemetery – Westminster, Carroll County ($65,000) Sponsor: Community Foundation of Carroll County, Incorporated

Six African American Union Army veterans established the Ellsworth Cemetery in 1876 to provide a burial place for the African American residents of Westminster. The grant project will include mapping of the cemetery and conservation of grave markers.

Project: Asbury M.E. Church – Easton, Talbot County ($100,000) Sponsor: Historic Easton, Incorporated

Asbury M.E. Church was dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878. The church also served as a temporary high school for Black students in the 1930s and is now both an active church and a community center. Grant funding will be used to make structural repairs and accessibility upgrades to the fellowship hall within the church.

Project: Fruitland Community Center, Wicomico County ($44,000) Sponsor: Fruitland Community Center, Inc.

In 1912 local community members built the Morris Street Colored School, now known as the Fruitland Community Center, for Wicomico County’s African American children. The building is still used for educational purposes, with summer and after school programs for children as well as an archive. The grant project will include roof replacement, accessibility improvements, and upgrades to the electrical and mechanical systems of the building.