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.
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!
By Karen Yee, University of Maryland Graduate Student
Chinatowns have always held a special place in my heart because the visits were the only time my parents would talk about our heritage. Every year without fail, my family would travel all the way to New York City’s Manhattan Chinatown to celebrate the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day in English, which falls on April 4 or 5. It’s a time to remember ancestors by tomb sweeping and lighting incense as a sign of respect to our ancestors. When I was 13, my grand-uncle made the trip with us. I still remember when he looked around at the cemetery and quietly said: “They discriminated against us, that’s why all these gravestones are just slabs of stone.” I did not understand what he meant until years later, when I began studying about Asian American history as a graduate student at the University of Maryland.
When I began my graduate research to learn about Baltimore City’s Chinatown for the Maryland Historical Trust this semester, I started with limited knowledge of Asian American history. It was not taught in public school or an option while I was in college. When I first studied the general history of Chinese immigration into the United States as part of this project, I was shocked to find that the earliest wave of Chinese immigration from the mid-1850’s had come from the Guangdong Providence – even more surprisingly, it was primarily in the Taishan district – where my family had roots. I knew at the very least that this was where my father’s side of the family grew up, and it was my own dialect that I spoke with my grandmother. As I delved deeper, I immediately reported my new facts to my father, who told me how the history connected to my own family tree. After researching the general history of Chinese Americans, I looked toward Baltimore’s Chinese immigrant history. Before I began this project, I was not even aware there was a Chinatown in Baltimore.
For hundreds of years, Baltimore enjoyed a fairly positive trading relationship with China. Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood, for example, is named after Canton, China. John O’Donnell purchased property in what is now known as Canton to build a plantation in the late 18th century. He had traded with China at the port of Canton because it was the only Chinese port opened to Western trade at the time. Over the years, Chinese prime ministers, major trade groups, and student groups have visited Baltimore for a variety of reasons. Leslie Chin’s History of Chinese Americans in Baltimore (1976) shows the ways Chinese immigrants have impacted the urban landscape through their laundries, restaurants, import stores, and joss houses (places of worship of Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, or Chinese Folk religion) in Baltimore’s Old Chinatown. Baltimore’s Chinatown held a majority percentage of the total Chinese population in Maryland between 1870 and 1960, after which it began to decline due to suburban sprawl and the need for more space to accommodate growing families into areas such as Rockville. Despite legislation such as the Page Act of 1875 (the first restrictive federal immigration law in the United States, which prevented entry of Chinese women) and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (which banned the entry of Chinese men as well), the Chinese population in Baltimore continued to grow in size. This growth resulted either from people exploiting loopholes in the legislation or migration of already established immigrants from other states.
Chinatowns were developed out of the need for Chinese immigrants to seek safe havens from racial discrimination, providing a place where residents could trade and practice traditions within a familiar context. Most Chinatowns were composed of men due to the restrictive immigration legislation in the late 19th century. Family groups and associations such as the Chinese Benevolent Association also gave political and social help to those in need. In Baltimore, some churches and religious/faith institutions extended a hand in helping immigrants adjust to life in the United States.
Life in Baltimore’s old Chinatown was not really any different from other city neighborhoods except for the context of anti-Chinese sentiment and discrimination. There were community celebrations such as the Chinese New Year, funerals, and other activities. Chinese immigrants did interact with the non-Chinese local community through their trade businesses, laundries, and restaurants. Although old Chinatown no longer stands in its entirety, revitalization efforts in the area began in 2018 with the Charm City Night Market, which took place in the area. Hopefully in the future, the neighborhood will return back to its former glory — not as a Chinatown, but as a place where all Asians, Pacific Islanders, and others can celebrate their history and heritage through historic sites and cultural resources. This motivates me to continue my research on the history and heritage of Chinese Americans in Baltimore and in Maryland.
As I wrap up my research work with MHT this month, I find it fitting that May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage and Preservation Month. This project provided an opportunity to preserve a part of my own and others’ family history. It also shed light into my own personal identity. I had grown up understanding that I was Chinese American, but I did not understand what it meant to be a Chinese American in the United States. My history in the United States does not start at the beginning of my birth, but in the struggles of those who had come before me and worked hard to achieve their goals and rights. It took me eleven years to begin to understand what my grand-uncle had said that day. As I and others visit the tombs of our ancestors, I hope that we will all continue to seek out our own histories to preserve our stories and places for future generations to learn and explore. Old Chinatown in Baltimore may be changed, but its history and stories wait patiently to be discovered and shared.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Lara Westwood, Librarian, Maryland Historical Trust
Woodstock nearly came to Maryland this summer. Organizers of the 50th anniversary celebration of the legendary music festival of August 15th through 18th, 1969 attempted to move the event from Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Howard County in a last ditch effort to save the show. But plans never quite came together. Several of the big name acts, including Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z, dropped out, and the show was canceled. Even without hosting the legendary Woodstock, Maryland has a rich musical history, and many concert venues, theaters, and related structures are listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.
Music has always been a vital part of culture in Maryland. Each Native American tribe that settled the Chesapeake Bay area had its own musical style and rituals. Enslaved people and free Africans brought their native traditions to the colony which spurred the development of new styles and genres. Colonial elites often hosted performances in the drawing rooms of their plantations, while the popular music, such as ballads and dance music, could be heard in the taverns. Francis Scott Key’s poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry”–today called “The Star-Spangled Banner” and arguably Maryland’s most famous contribution to American music history–became popular after it was set to a well-known drinking tune. As the colony developed, concert halls and theaters were opened and musical social clubs were formed in the cities and larger towns.
By the mid-1800s and into the 1900s, Maryland had developed a strong musical culture. Baltimore saw several notable musical institutions established during this time. In the 1830s, William Knabe, a German immigrant, opened his piano repair and sales company. In partnership with Henry Gaehle, the company began manufacturing square, upright, and grand pianos. The partnership eventually ended. By 1861, Knabe built a new, larger factory on Eutaw Street after two of his other manufacturing locations burned and to accommodate the business’ growth. The factory operated until 1929 when new owners moved production to New York state. The Peabody Institute was founded in 1857. The city of Baltimore opened an academy of music as well as a free library and gallery of art in the Mount Vernon neighborhood with $300,000 donated by businessman and philanthropist George Peabody. One of the country’s best music schools, it became part of Johns Hopkins University in 1977. The Music Hall on Mount Royal Avenue opened in 1894 to much fanfare as the city had been without a major performance venue after the Concordia Opera House burned down. The first concert season promised to be of the “finest class” and promised to attract visitors to the city. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by several renowned opera singers, including soprano Nellie Melba, kicked off the inaugural season. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra also regularly played concerts at the venue. The hall was purpose-built as a concert venue, designed for acoustic quality, but also hosted other theatrical events and was available for balls and banquets. Otto Kahn, an investment banker and patron of the arts, purchased the hall in 1909 and changed the name to the Lyric Theatre. The theater changed hands several times and was nearly torn down in 1903 to make way for a garage. The theater has undergone extensive renovations over the years, and is now known as the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric.
Maryland also boasted several stops on what would become known as the Chitlin’ Circuit. In the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws, African American performers often played in venues where they would otherwise be barred from patronizing. The theaters and other performance spaces on the circuit, on the other hand, welcomed both black artists and audiences. Arthur Wilmer converted a Prince George’s County tobacco farm into one of the premier venues on the circuit. Wilmer’s Park in Brandywine hosted the likes of Patti LaBelle, Chuck Berry, James Brown, and Sam Cooke. Wilmer booked many famous artists before their careers took off. The park, which opened in the early 1950s, featured a dancehall, motel, restaurant, picnicking grounds, and ball fields. Music events were held at the park until it closed in the 1990s and has since fallen into disrepair. The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, more commonly known as the Black Elks, operated a similar venue at John Brown’s headquarters, also called Kennedy Farm in Sharpsburg, Washington County. Abolitionist John Brown orchestrated his raid on the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry from the farm in October of 1859. He and his followers stockpiled weapons at the farm in the months leading up to the raid. Almost 100 years later, the African American fraternal organization purchased it with the intent of establishing a national headquarters complete with a youth center, retirement home, tennis courts, and other amenities, as well as a national shrine and museum to honor Brown. It became a popular weekend destination for black residents of western Maryland and West Virginia and attracted many famous artists to play at the dancehall. James Brown performed the last concert there in 1966, just before the camp closed and the Elks sold the property.
The Baltimore Civic Center, now known as Royal Farms Arena, has hosted several historic concerts since it opened in 1962. The futuristic, Googie-style arena was built in an effort to revitalize the city’s downtown and served as a multi-purpose entertainment space. The Baltimore Bullets and Clippers called the Civic Center home court and ice, respectively, during the 1960s and early 1970s, and the Ringling Brothers Circus regularly performed there. Martin Luther King, Jr. also gave speeches at the Center in 1963 and 1966. The 1964 Beatles concerts cemented the venue in music history. The band played two shows on September 13 to a packed house. Beatlemania was at full froth. A large contingent of Baltimore City police officers had to be stationed outside the band’s hotel before the show. Two female fans apparently unsuccessfully tried to meet the Fab Four by mailing themselves to the arena in boxes marked “fan mail” before the show. Once the band took the stage, even greater pandemonium ensued. The Baltimore Sun described the scene at one of the shows: “The enormous cavern of the building had become a vibrant, pulsating shrine with waves of shrieking adulation that burst with concussive force.” Several concert-goers had to be treated for “hysterics” and fainting, according to the same article. A few years later, a Led Zeppelin appearance nearly caused a riot when 200 people without tickets to the show attempted to rush the doors of the arena. Ten people were arrested as a result. This and other raucous rock concerts led the city to attempt to limit shows that would “[appeal] to young people” to afternoons and require promoters to hire more security. The evening concert ban was eventually lifted, and the venue continues to host a wide variety of events every year.
Maryland’s musical legacy continues to grow. More concert venues are being studied for their architectural and historical significance, and notable concert events will assuredly continue to be held across the state.
 “The Music Hall.” Baltimore Sun, Oct. 29, 1894: p. 4.
 Levine, Richard H. “Thousands See Beatles Shake Civic Center”. Baltimore Sun, Sept. 14, 1964, p. 38.
 O’Donnell, Jr., John B. “Rock Shows To Be Limited To Afternoon.” Baltimore Sun, May 7, 1970: p. C22.
By Kacy Rohn, Planner, City of College Park and Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research and Survey, Maryland Historical Trust
On March 21st at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis, Augusta T. Chissell will be inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, joining seven other notable women honored for their achievements and contributions to the State.
Maryland women suffragists played an important role in the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. State suffrage leaders, including Augusta T. Chissell, developed a robust network of grassroots organizations across Maryland, greatly shaping the fight for women’s rights. While the work of these activists has largely been forgotten, this is particularly true for African American suffragists, who were excluded from prominent suffrage organizations and omitted from newspaper coverage and organizational records. Early twentieth-century African American suffragists’ work was particularly important at a time when Jim Crow laws sought to undermine hard-won civil rights.
Augusta Chissell. Photo courtesy of Mark Young
Augusta Chissell was an important African American leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Baltimore City in the early twentieth century. Chissell had deep roots in Baltimore’s women’s clubs, which fostered leadership skills as they promoted causes including education, healthcare, and prohibition. She was an officer in Baltimore’s Progressive Women’s Suffrage Club and held a leadership position in the prominent Women’s Cooperative Civic League. Chissell, her neighbor Margaret Gregory Hawkins, and activist Estelle Young were part of a black middle class who lived and worked in neighborhoods now part of the Old West Baltimore Historic District. The close proximity of these organizations’ members, driven by residential segregation, made it convenient for them to hold meetings in their homes, and they often gathered at Chissell’s home on Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore.
Augusta T. Chissell’s home at 1534 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore
In the early twentieth century, the women’s suffrage movement began to secure the support of important state and national organizations. In 1914, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC) endorsed women’s suffrage, and local clubs and associations moved quickly to draw further public support by holding mass meetings. The first public meeting of the Women’s Suffrage Club drew a large and enthusiastic crowd to Grace Presbyterian Church in December 1915, and in 1916, the NACWC brought their biennial national convention to Baltimore, where the suffrage movement was a major topic of discussion.
Dr. Robert G. and Augusta T. Chissell with great nephew, Mark Young (ca. 1960)
Following passage of the 19th Amendment, Chissell authored “A Primer for Women Voters,” a recurring column in the Baltimore Afro-American that offered guidance to new African American women voters. She organized training sessions for women at the neighborhood Colored Young Women’s Christian Association (CYWCA) after women got the vote, and later served as the Chair of the Women’s Cooperative Civic League and as Vice President of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. The Women’s Club used the CYWCA to hold weekly ‘Citizenship Meetings’ for new women voters and ongoing lectures on voting and civic responsibility.
Augusta T. Chissell’s legacy endures in her former home at 1534 Druid Hill Avenue, where she lived during her decades of civic activism, and in the former CYWCA building at 1200 Druid Hill Avenue, where the Women’s Suffrage Club began hosting public meetings in 1915. As the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment approaches, Marylanders should honor and celebrate strong women like Augusta Chissell, whose decades of civic activism laid the groundwork for so many of us.
Tomorrow’s event is sold out, but the Maryland Historical Trust will post photos of the induction ceremony on social media. To explore the story of women’s suffrage in Maryland, visit MHT’s storymap “Maryland Women’s Fight for the Vote.”
By Nancy Kurtz, Commissioner, Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments
WWI Memorial, Fifth Regiment Armory (photo copyright: J. Brough Schamp)
The magnificent World War I Memorial over the entrance of the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore recently was cleaned and refurbished, the work coordinated by the Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments and the Department of General Services, and funded by the Maryland Military Department. Last maintained in 2001, the coatings on the bronze and copper elements had weathered and required removal and renewal. Anticipating the 100th anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I and Armistice Day on November 11, 2018, the Commission funded a condition assessment in early 2016 and developed a plan for treatment in cooperation with the Military Department, the agency headquartered at the armory.
The Commission has sponsored or co-sponsored conservation treatment for 112
Maryland monuments, including twenty-five commemorating World War I. Some projects were in partnership with Baltimore City or with the National Park Service. These include monuments at Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Potential projects are evaluated and selected according to condition, historical significance, and artistic merit.
Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore (photo copyright: J. Brough Schamp)
In order to preserve the completed work, the Commission manages, on a modest budget, a plan of cyclical maintenance carried out every 3-4 years for sixty of the treated monuments that do not fall under maintenance programs administered by other agencies. The sixty are owned by counties, municipalities and private organizations. Projects are added to the treatment and maintenance program according to need and budget. Maintenance of treated works is key to the success of the program. Performed by professional outdoor sculpture conservators, it typically entails washing the monuments and plaques, touching up the protective wax coatings on bronze, and attending to repair issues that may arise. Because the scope and cost of maintenance of the memorial at the Fifth Regiment Armory exceeded the annual budget of the Monuments Commission, it was funded by the Military Department.
The Fifth Regiment of the 29th Division fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, part of the final Allied offensive and one of the largest in United States Military history. Over 30% of the Division was killed or wounded. This powerful sculpture by Baltimore artist Hans Schuler, dedicated on Armistice Day in 1925, features the allegorical figure of Victory leading the Regiment and comprises actual portraits of men who died at the front. Schuler graduated from the Rinehart School of Sculpture of the Maryland Institute, studied in Paris where he was the first American sculptor awarded the Salon Gold Medal, and was president of the Maryland Institute from 1925 until 1951, the year of his death. The memorial is an outstanding example of the figural bronze sculpture in demand for public art, monuments and private memorials in the early twentieth century.
Deteriorated coatings on the memorial pre-conservation
The inscription, “TO THE GLORY OF MARYLAND,” radiates in brass letters on a copper lunette surrounding the bronze sculptural group. Below the sculptures is an honor roll of those who were lost. Flanking the entrance are tablets carrying the names of those who served, capped with ornate shields and guarded by bronze eagles. The two-story roll-down door is constructed of copper sheet over wood and embellished with decorative cast bronze elements.
Detail of figures before laser cleaning
After laser cleaning of face, with rifle in progress
The memorial has had a variety of coatings applied over the years, which has hampered ongoing conservation efforts. Chemical methods were not entirely successful in removing underlying layers of paint during the 2001 maintenance. However, in summer of 2018 the deteriorated coatings were removed from the bronze and copper using recently available, highly precise laser technology, which revealed the historic surfaces under the coatings without removing the patina.
Coatings removed from top of inscription and palm frond
Removal tests on brass rays and copper molding
Following testing to determine the appropriate level of cleaning, Conservator Andrzej Dajnowski of Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio used laser technology to remove deteriorated coatings from the bronze sculptures while preserving the patina beneath (click here to see a video of the process). The new coating of satin finish acrylic will protect the metal surfaces for many years while revealing and enhancing the richness of the colors.
Detail of restored soldiers (photo copyright: J. Brough Schamp)
The final step in the project was installation of new bird netting. Inconspicuous from the ground, it prevents birds from roosting and nesting in the alcove and will protect the memorial well into the future.
Bird netting (credit: BirdMaster)
Netting from ground (credit: BirdMaster)
Administered by the Department of Planning, the Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments has developed and implemented the only statewide program of military monuments conservation and maintenance in the country. The Commission was created in 1989 by Governor William Donald Schaefer and is charged with locating, determining maintenance responsibility for, and assisting in preservation of monuments in need. At present count, 468 monuments to Marylanders have been identified, in and out of state. Approximately 100 are owned and under the care of the City of Baltimore, the National Park Service, other federal agencies, or other states. Sixty-one commemorate World War I.
The restored Fifth Regiment memorial (photo copyright: J. Brough Schamp)
The construction of new monuments is ongoing, and many of the monuments date from the mid-to-late 20th century. The Commission is not charged with the creation of new monuments, and those who do so are encouraged to set aside funding for their maintenance. For more information on the work of the Monuments Commission and a guided tour of representative projects, please visit the Commission web page, hosted by the Maryland Historical Trust.
The Governor’s Commission on Maryland Military Monuments and the Maryland Historical Trust are grateful to architectural photographer J. Brough Schamp, who documented the completed project. Mr. Schamp’s photos are copyrighted and used here with permission. For information and permission for use, visit http://www.broughschampphotography.com.
Netting photos are courtesy of BirdMaster, as noted.