Politics & Business

After many years of silence, the east coast begins to reckon with its troubled historical past – Baltimore Journal

ON THE SURFACEAt least the prospect of change seems to be
particularly evident in Chestertown, where 1882 Gordon
Wallace's great-great-grandfather was one of the men who
founded Sumner Hall, a veteran post for Black Union soldiers.
More than 400 Black Kent Countians fought for the Union
documented in a granite monument in the city center, similar to that
Unionville Founder en route to Wye Plantation
in Easton, in the cemetery behind St.
Stephens A.M.E. Church.

Marker, the Unionville a
"Historic African American community settled by ex-slaves and free blacks."

Wallace now works at Sumner Hall, which has reopened as a museum
and educational space in 2014 after decades of decay, and
Through the relationships established there, he helped design two streets
Murals in support of racial justice this summer, just around the corner
Corner on the main street of the city.

“At the time, other murals appeared
States, and I thought it was pretty cool we were
go that route, "says Wallace, 23." That was it
a great way to start the conversation. Anyone
can interpret art in its own time. Even though it was me
a little surprised by the initial pushback. "

He refers to the three-hour meeting in August.
where members of the majority of Chestertown
The white council hesitated to accept the murals –
one in the heart of historic downtown that reads
"Black Lives Matter" and one second, four blocks
North in the black neighborhood of Uptown, said
"We can't breathe."

Cemetery behind St. Stephens A.M.E. Church in Unionville.

The mayor cited concerns such as possible legal reasons
Exposure, long-term maintenance and the possibility
of vandalism. (Threats came from a Facebook
Group called Kent Island Patriots in Queen
Anne & # 39; s County. "I have some big, fat tires that I've been
I'm waiting to be burned down, ”said one member.
Some residents felt that the exertion was hardly greater than
white guilt from the city's many liberal retirees. in the
the end, after a series of public comments, was both
Unanimously adopted and with the slogan “Chestertown
Unite against Racism ”.

Where the downtown mural is now painted
The high street follows green bricks, past Georgian ones
Style houses with historical bronze plaques in front
ends on the Chester River, a busy slave
Harbor until 1770. In the next almost two
Centuries, as elsewhere on the coast, the heritage
slavery would take new forms as separate
Restaurants, theaters, schools and hospitals,
with blacks and whites still living in separate silos
all over the county.

At the same time these African American communities
became sources of great pride, with a living one
Black downtown business district on Cannon
Road through the first half of the 20th century.
A black entrepreneur sold square meters of land to his
Neighbors there who give them the right to vote.
A black school has now been named in Uptown
after Henry Highland Garnet, an international
noted abolitionist born into slavery in Kent County,
during Charlie Graves & # 39; Uptown Club
Goal on the "Chitlin’ Circuit ", drawing file
like James Brown and Ray Charles.

Much of the old African American neighborhoods
have succumbed to gentrification or have been replaced
through affordable housing, but the Bethel A.M.E.
and Jane's United Methodist churches past those
Freedom Riders who marched in 1962 are still anchors,
both with roots in the 19th century.

“This is a place where in the face of it all
systemic oppression, African American communities
could build churches, shops, schools – and these
There are legacies to this day, ”says Nugent of Washington College.
where he is also director of Chesapeake Heartland, an African
American humanities project in collaboration with the Smithsonian
National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“It's hard to find that kind of ingrained heritage, which is dating
back to the 1600s, elsewhere in the United States. "

Chesapeake Heartland is working to document local black
History and culture that make up the often untold stories of African
American resilience, achievement and excellence alongside that of
Slavery, racial violence and oppression, which are an essential context,
says Nugent, but "ultimately the story of the whites." The programs
The recently acquired “Humanities Truck” will serve as a mobile phone
Museum at events around the coast, while their digital archive,
The start of this month will be a collage of oral traditions and
Archival material.

“The African American history on the east coast has been channeled
through a few unique heroes, but the bigger, more complex, more
The nuanced story was not fully recognized, ”says Nugent. “Douglass
and Tubman were geniuses, but they were also members of
Communities, and their success in many ways, came from the
Men and women who have built these networks that produce something
more interesting. Not only are these two incredible
People rose, but the shoulders of the giants they stood on. "

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