Posts Tagged Talbot County
Book review forthcoming: “The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson” by Prof. Lolita Buckner Inniss (Fordham University Press, 2019)
James Collins Johnson ran with Frederick Bailey. Whereas in 1836 Collins evaded incrimination and capture, in 1839 he made his own move out Easton in Talbot County, Maryland.
As a late night rider of the Underground Railroad James Collins Johnson uplifted his humanity.
A lost legend of history they never wanted you to know. The Shore holds secrets not whispered for generations and history not told for centuries.
Must acknowledge Princeton University and express gratitude to Prof. Lolita Buckner Inniss for honorably recognizing this sacred story of a friend of peasants, students and presidents.
ST. MICHAELS — St. Michaels Museum will open a new exhibit in June about historic St. Mary’s Square.
St. Mary’s Square has a long history covering 240 years. It was the center of a 1778 town plan put together by James Braddock during the American Revolution.
Braddock’s plan featured the square surrounded by 20 lots, a market house and two gates, north and south. It was the center of the early town, and featured over the years Sadis Chapel, the early St Luke’s Church and several schools (public and private).
Today, it is the location of St Michaels Museum.
In addition to the new exhibit, the museum offers docent-led walking tours on Saturdays through Oct. 26. Walking tours of the town start at 10 a.m., and cost $10 for adults and $5 for children 6 to 17. Private tours are available for $50. Other days and times can be arranged by calling Kate Fones at 410-745-4323.
“Frederick Douglass, as a Slave, in St. Michaels 1833-36” is offered on the first and third Saturdays of each month.
This is a 90-minute walking tour giving a view of the early life of St. Michaels’ most famous 19th century resident and the most important African-American abolitionist of the Civil War era.
“Historic St. Michaels: Its People, Places and Happenings” is offered on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
This 90-minute walking tour highlights St. Michaels during the 19th century. Stories will be told by viewing many restored structures from that era and describing life of famous and typical residents of these times, including Douglass.
The St. Michaels Museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
More information is available at www.stmichaelsmuseum.org.
Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture -> Public Meeting, Mon., June 3, 2019 @ 11 AM (Asbury United Methodist Church, “The Hill,” Old Easton, Talbot County, Maryland)
Boyd K. Rutherford
Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture
Dale Glenwood Green
Tamara England Wilson
Notice of Annual Meeting
Historic Asbury United Methodist Church
The Hill Community (1788)
18 South Higgins Street
Easton, Maryland 21601
Monday, June 3, 2019
Please contact us by
phone (410) 216-6181 or by
The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture (MCAAHC) is committed to discovering, documenting, preserving, collecting, and promoting Maryland’s African American heritage. The Commission also provides technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives. Through the accomplishment of this mission, the MCAAHC seeks to educate Maryland citizens and its visitors about the significance and impact of the African American experience in Maryland. The MCAAHC is a unit of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
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Maryland Commission on African American History & Culture
C/O Banneker-Douglass Museum
84 Franklin Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
Talbot County found itself in the spotlight in 2018 when the world marked the 200th birthday of the great abolitionist, orator, and writer Frederick Douglass. Harriette Lowry of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society pulled together more than 45 local organizations to form the Frederick Douglass 200 Committee. The group created a year-long series of events designed to honor the life and legacy of Talbot County’s most famous native son.
Events included a wreath laying at Douglass statue at the County Courthouse, a February 14 birthday celebration on the banks of the Tuckahoe, a speaker series at the Talbot County Free Library, performances by reenactors throughout the year, and the annual Frederick Douglass Day celebration. These events laid the groundwork for future efforts to create tourism products to tell the story of Douglass’ youth and to attract visitors looking for Frederick Douglass.
We look forward to future efforts to uplift the history with true dignity and honor.
Within the past year or so I’ve become more familiar with the waterways, wharves, churches, school houses, cemeteries, towns, cities, peoples, institutions and folklore of Maryland’s Eastern Shore as a street historian and Washington correspondent.
Although Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia was published by the History Press in 2012 and presented at such venerable national literary landmarks as Politics & Prose and the Library of Congress, along with features by the Washington Post, WYPR and C-SPAN’s BookTV, not a single institution nor individual from the Eastern Shore reached out in an interest to further a more scholastic, geographic and chononologic understanding of the Shore’s most famous and consequential native son.
At the commencement of the statewide Frederick Douglass Bicentennial last year I began a singular mission to uplift the lost history of Douglass on the Shore, as well as challenge the debilitating status quo that has suppressed and kept the fuller history lost and forgotten for generations.
Last year the Star Democrat published my “Letter To the Editor” (“Douglass college ties extended far and wide,” 1 Feb, 2018) demonstrating Washington College in Chestertown to be scholastically duplicitous and illiterate of its own history. In September of 2018, in collaboration with a well-respected community historian and the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center, more than 60 people attended the free presentation of “Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Cambridge.” The Star Democrat featured the lost history on its front page.
In February of this year more than seventy people attended a presentation of “Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Denton,” at the Caroline County Library. The Star Democrat wrote an advance story as well as highlighted the presentation and history on the front page of the weekly Times-Record, which exclusively covers Caroline County.
Gratitude and respect is in order for a number of public and private institutions, as well as private citizens and public administrators who have been receptive, helpful and supportive over the past two years.
Over the course of this year and the forthcoming year Eastern Shore Douglass-themed tours will be developed and a guide book to the lost history of Frederick Douglass on the Shore, which includes information on little to previously unknown visits and/or connections to the counties of Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Wicomico, will be produced and published.
Names and institutions needn’t be named and identified but a close record has been kept of those receiving public funds that have demonstrated an incapacity to respond to emails, take the initiative to reach out and/or in any measurable way collaborate to advance, uplift, uphold and preserve this lost history.
For those who can taste that salt water right now this memo is for you.
In Washingtonian lexicon “across the bridge” means East of the (Anacostia) River, as in the neighborhoods and areas of Washington City separated by the Old Eastern Branch of the Potomac. In Eastern Shore lexicon “across the bridge” means across the bridge that spans the Chesapeake Bay.
No matter the bridges that require crossing, the history will no longer be dumbed down, obscured and lost. The individuals and institutions that have been obstinate will not be pardoned.
The contemporary urgency of now to uplift the fallen and lost history and thusly defend indigenous Douglassonian communities from those who seek to poison, destroy and mislead is the same sentiment contained therein the article below from more than a century ago.
Old Anacostia Douglassonians
DEFENDING THE EASTERN SHORE.
A Chicago Paper’s Criticism of Fred. Douglass’s Birth-Place Refuted.
The Chicago News recently published the following letter from Mr. Lewis A. Leonard:
Permit me to call attention to the gross libel which you unintentionally perpetrated in the Morning News today on a most intelligent community by quoting about the locality which gave Frederick Douglass to the world. These are the objectionable lines:
“His mother was a black slave and he was born on a remote plantation lying on the banks of the Choptank river in Maryland, February, 1817, amid the laziest and muddiest of streams, surrounded by a white population of the lowest order and among slaves who in point of ignorance and indolence were fully in accord with their surroundings. It is a remarkable fact that there was one, and apparently only one, exception to the general laziness and ignorance of the black population in the midst of which he was born, and that one exception was his mother. She could read, though how she could have learned has every [sic] been a mystery to her son.”
The truth is that river is not a lazy, muddy stream, but one of the most beautiful bodies of pure salt water on the face of the globe. For scenic impressiveness, as well as for the richness and excellence of its salt-water products, the Tread Avon, that arm or the Choptank near which Fred. Douglass was born, stands unrivaled. The county of Talbot, where he first saw the light, is made up of people as intelligent, cultured and hospitable as can be found on the Atlantic coast from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of being ignorance, the county was the first in one in the United States to provide a good system of free education, and these schools were generally patronized that when Fred Douglass lived there I doubt if there was a white adult in the entire county who could not read and write. Few such communities were to be found fifty years ago. Since 1817 the county has maintained a system of public schools unexcelled by those of any section of the country. For more than fifty years a good education has been provided, entirely free of individual expense, even for a book or slate pencil.
There is not anywhere a community that has produced more brainy and prominent men than the area embraced in a circuit of fifty miles from the birthplace of the distinguished Afro-American.
At one time the mayors of both Chicago and St. Louis – Rice and Thomas – were natives of the county. And within the area indicated are the birthplaces of Lecompte, of Kansas, whose name was given to the famous constitution, and Judge Delahay, the first chief justice of that State. Hooper, the well-known Mormon delegate, came from the same locality, and while he was in Congress another ex-citizen (Pearce) was serving a term from a district under the very shadow of Bunker Hill. Not five miles from the old home of Douglass still, stands the house built and occupied by the ancestors of Henry Clay, and Philip Francis Thomas, who was President Buchanan’s Secretary of the Treasury, lived and died within a dozen miles in the opposite direction. Others worthy of note might be mentioned, among them William Wirt, Luther Martin, Bishop Emery, James Alfred Pearce, John Bozman Kerr, Secretaries Kirkwood and Creswell, of President Grant’s cabinet, while on the edge of the circle in one direction lived John M. Clayton, of national fame, and in the other the eminent lawyer and pure jurist, who has been so fouily abused, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.
This locality was also the home of the Davis family, which gave to the country more distinguished men than any other known to history. At one time there is a public life of the family of intellectual giants Jefferson Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy, Jefferson C. Davis, a major-general of the federal army; Judge David Davis, of the United States Supreme Court; Henry Winter Davis, the most conspicuous and able member of Congress on the Union side from the South, and Colonel Davis of Virginia, then in the Confederacy, and still living, and who is regarded as one of the ablest lawyers in West Virginia.
The community is almost entirely engaged in agriculture, but the people have been distinguished for their intellectual strength from colonial times up to the present day. Two members of General Washington’s staff, Gen. Tench Tilghman, aid de camp, and Dr. Elbert, surgeon-general, were from within ten miles of the Douglass home and their descendants are among the leading people of that locality today.
Nor is it true that “the negro slaves were densely ignorant, and Fred. Douglass’s mother stood as the one exception to the general laziness and ignorance.” The colored people had the fostering care of their white masters to an unusual degree. Colonel Stevens, of the county, a merchant prince in his day, freed all his slaves and made the largest donation to the American Colonization Society which is ever received, and the republic of Liberia was a hobby of this mal till the day of his death. As a result of his efforts many intelligent colored person from Talbot went to Liberia, and one of them became president and another vice-president of that republic.
Judged by any accepted standard, estimated by the intelligence, industry and progressiveness or her sons who have gone abroad or those who have remained at home, this grand old country will always be found marching right along at the head of the procession of progress and civilization.
“Defending the Eastern Shore.” Baltimore Sun, 03 Sep, 1891. page 1.
A nine-year archaeological dig at the site of a plantation where abolitionist Frederick Douglass once lived culminated in an exhibit at the University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library.
The exhibit showcases artifacts that shed light on the life and culture of Wye House, a former plantation near Easton, Maryland where Douglass spent two years as an enslaved child. Professor Mark Leone of the university’s Department of Anthropology co-curated the exhibit with his current and former graduate students
By: Lolita Buckner Inniss
Forthcoming Publication: September 2019
I never got no free papers. Princeton College bought me; Princeton College owns me; and Princeton College has got to give me my living.
James Collins Johnson made his name by escaping slavery in Maryland and fleeing to Princeton, where he built a life in a bustling community of African Americans working at what is now Princeton University. After only four years, he was recognized by a student from Maryland, arrested, and subjected to a trial for extradition under the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. On the eve of his rendition, after attempts to free Johnson by force had failed, a local aristocratic white woman purchased Johnson’s freedom, allowing him to avoid re-enslavement. The Princeton Fugitive Slave reconstructs James Collins Johnson’s life, from birth and enslaved life in Maryland to his daring escape, sensational trial for re-enslavement, and last-minute change of fortune, and through to the end of his life in Princeton, where he remained a figure of local fascination.
Stories of Johnson’s life in Princeton often describe him as a contented, jovial soul, beloved on campus and memorialized on his gravestone as “the Students Friend.” But these familiar accounts come from student writings and sentimental recollections in alumni reports—stories from elite, predominantly white, often southern sources whose relationships with Johnson were hopelessly distorted by differences in race and social standing. In interrogating these stories against archival records, newspaper accounts, courtroom narratives, photographs, and family histories, author Lolita Buckner Inniss builds a picture of Johnson on his own terms, piecing together the sparse evidence and disaggregating him from the other black vendors with whom he was sometimes confused.
By telling Johnson’s story and examining the relationship between antebellum Princeton’s black residents and the economic engine that supported their community, the book questions the distinction between employment and servitude that shrinks and threatens to disappear when an individual’s freedom is circumscribed by immobility, lack of opportunity, and contingency on local interpretations of a hotly contested body of law.
Lolita Buckner Inniss, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is a professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, where she is a Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Fellow. Her research addresses historic, geographic, metaphoric, and visual norms of law, especially in the context of race, gender, and comparative constitutionalism.