Celebrating Cambridge Heroines: Women at the Frontlines of Social Change

By Jessica Brannock, Communications Intern

Standing on the steps of the Cambridge Courthouse in 1963, Gloria Richardson addressed a crowd of reporters. As the leader of the Cambridge Movement, Richardson spoke of the ongoing efforts to desegregate the city’s school systems and ensure better jobs and housing for the African-American community. Today, this historic image of Richardson is commemorated in the Local African-American Heritage Mural in Cambridge, Maryland.

Stacked mural photo
Initial and completed stages of the Local African-American Heritage Mural in Cambridge, Maryland. Images provided by Michael and Heather Rosato, edited with permission.

The piece is one of several murals created by artist Michael Rosato along the Chesapeake Country Mural Trail. The placement of each figure is significant to the reading of the mural and the community’s story. “Everything radiates out from Harriet [Tubman] in the middle, she’s the foundation of that whole community,” Rosato said. “She’s the inspiration for freedom and respect, just an incredible woman.”

In recent years, Harriet Tubman has received local and national recognition with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County, Maryland.

While prominent characters like Tubman, Richardson, and even Ella Fitzgerald can be picked out of the crowd, each figure stands on their own. Spotlights of the community’s history flow from left to right, with the last image featuring a modern-day athlete from Cambridge South Dorchester High School. “I wanted the modern kids to have a sense of ownership too, to feel that they are a part of the story,” Rosato said. “Their future is going to be the history of Cambridge.”

Today, the legacy of the Cambridge Movement is not mired in the past but has taken off with a new wave of activism and 21st century leaders. Co-founders of the Eastern Shore Network for Change (ESNC), Kisha Petticolas and Dion Banks have led community initiatives to continue the work of Gloria Richardson and bring people together.

Petticolas and Banks met in 2012 while campaigning for the re-election of Mayor Victoria Jackson- Stanley—the first African-American and woman elected Mayor of the City of Cambridge, Maryland. “Through our work at the ESNC, Dion [Banks] and I have found that the one thing that seems to constantly block this community from moving forward is failing to acknowledge our painful history concerning race,” Petticolas said.

In the summer of 2017, the ESNC hosted Reflections on Pine, a series of events that commemorated the Cambridge Movement and created a community-wide platform to discuss the incidents that lead to the burning of Pine Street in 1967. One event included a public interview with Richardson—now in her nineties, where she shared her experiences leading the movement. While Richardson succeeded in securing freedoms for the Cambridge community, many of the same economic and social issues are still felt today. The fight is not over. “I do this work because I believe everyone deserves to have the same basic opportunities in life,” Petticolas said. “We all deserve to be educated, employed, well paid for the work that we do, live in a home that is clean and safe, and to be respected for who we are.”

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Co-founders of the Eastern Shore Network for Change, Kisha Petticolas (left) and Dion Banks (right) pose for a photo with Gloria Richardson (center) during Reflections on Pine in 2017 [Image credit ESNC].

For over a century, women in Dorchester County have fought for social change, leaving legacies which propelled succeeding generations into new waves of activism and opportunity. “I am just a link in a chain that started hundreds of years ago by a woman whose name I will never know and I certainly will not be the last link,” said Petticolas. “I am hopeful that through our work at ESNC we are able to find the next link in the chain, and wouldn’t it be nice if she could be the last link?”

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2016 Sustainable Communities Tax Credits Awarded

On November 16, 2015, the Maryland Historical Trust announced the recipients of the latest round of Sustainable Communities Tax Credits. State funds provided by this program will help create over 650 construction jobs in projects designed to revitalize communities and promote green building practices.

The Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program and its predecessor, the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit, has invested more than $370 million in Maryland revitalization projects since it began in 1996. The investments have helped restore more than 4,198 homeowner and 638 commercial historic structures, preserving buildings that contribute to the distinct character of Maryland’s towns, cities and rural areas. According to a study by the Abell Foundation, the program has helped to create more than 27,000 jobs through construction and new uses of these significant historic resources.

The six recipients are described below.

Hoen LithographHoen Lithograph, East Biddle Street Baltimore City
($3,000,000 in tax credits awarded)

Originally built in 1898 for the Bagby Furniture Company the site is most closely associated with the Hoen Lithograph Company which operated on the property from 1902 to 1981. Hoen, which was established in 1835, was the oldest continuously operating lithographer in the United States when it closed in 1981. The historic complex is being restored and converted to house a lively mixed use development featuring a food production kitchen, a brewery, office space for start-ups and non-profits and market rate apartments targeting healthcare workers.

Footer's Dye WorksFooter’s Dye Works, Howard Street, Cumberland, Allegany County
($1,875,000 in tax credits awarded)

Built in 1905, this building is an important remnant of the city’s industrial heritage. The Footer’s Dye Works functioned as one of the dominant cleaning and dyeing facilities in the mid-Atlantic region thru the first third of the 20th century. This structure will be restored and expanded to house a mix of rental housing units, a restaurant/brewery and commercial office space.

Hearn BuildingHearn Building, Race Street, Cambridge, Dorchester County
($959,034.40 in tax credits awarded)

Originally constructed as a commercial hardware store and later used as a furniture store this 1915 building is one of only a few large scale early 20th century commercial buildings surviving on the Eastern Shore. This significant building will be restored and repurposed to house rental residential apartments and retail spaces.

Saint Michael's Church ComplexSt. Michael’s Church Complex, East Lombard Street, Baltimore City
($2,861, 111.60 in tax credits awarded)

Constructed between 1850 and 1927 the St. Michael’s Church complex is a remarkably intact example of an historic urban religious campus. The church played a key role in the assimilation of German immigrants arriving in Baltimore and with its school and parish hall served as the social center of the parish. The now vacant complex will be restored with a mix of commercial uses occupying the former sanctuary building and parish hall and with other areas of the school and rectory being converted to rental residential apartments.

Academy SchoolAcademy School, Mill Street, Cambridge, Dorchester County
($287,500 in tax credits awarded)

This 1906 school building has been vacant and endangered for many years. The project will restore the exterior of the building and repurpose the historic classroom, library and office spaces for use as a senior living apartment building.

Sykesville HotelSykesville Hotel, Main Street, Sykesville, Carroll County
($58,000 in tax credits awarded)

This hotel was originally constructed in 1905 and remained in service as a hotel and restaurant until the 1920’s when it was converted to apartments. The renovation of the structure will restore the exterior of the building including the restoration of the siding, reopening of historic windows and doors and the reconstruction of the building’s missing porches.