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Home Education Celebrating Black History in Annapolis

Celebrating Black History in Annapolis

Black history should be celebrated all year long. And in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, there’s no shortage of interesting places, historical figures and events to learn about the Black people who lived, worked and changed this area and the country for the better. 

Those who’ve visited City Dock have undoubtedly seen the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial of Alex Haley reading to children. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As you dive deeper into the stories, you’ll learn about the enslaved Black people who built Annapolis, including historic homes like the James Brice House and Chase-Lloyd House, and those who worked at others, including the Hammond Harwood House.

And you’ll learn about the Black leaders who worked to change the landscape for future generations, including Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, and Matthew Henson.With your children’s field trips canceled this fall, take some time and learn about Black history in Annapolis together.

Kunta Kinte/Alex Haley Memorial

City Dock, Annapolis

Kunta Kinte was brought to Annapolis from the Gambia in 1767 and sold into slavery in Annapolis. His descendent Alex Haley penned the historic novel “Roots: the Saga of an American Family,” about Kunta Kinte’s life in slavery, which also became an award-winning miniseries in 1977. The sculpture group at City Dock was erected in 1999 after nearly two decades in the making. Finally, in 2002, the bronze 14-foot diameter compass rose, 10 bronze engraved plaques, and an informational kiosk were installed. You can learn more about the memorial at kintehaley.org.

Remembering the Foot Soldiers of the March on Washington Memorial 

The People’s Park, Annapolis

This memorial statue is “dedicated to the quarter of a million people of all races, religions and nationalities who, on a sweltering summer day, August 28, 1963, gathered in our nation’s capital in front of the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The memorial is in People’s Park (formerly Whitmore Park) in downtown Annapolis, which was recently renovated, renamed, and dedicated to the Old Fourth Ward.

Thurgood Marshall Memorial Plaza

Lawyer’s Mall, Annapolis

Thurgood Marshall statue at the Lawyer’s Mall.

Thurgood Marshall was a Baltimore native who spent his legal career dedicated to challenging racial inequalities. He argued and won the Brown vs. Board of Education case in the Supreme Court, which ended school segregation in the U.S. He was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1967, and was the first African American appointed to the high court.

The Thurgood Marshall Memorial is located on the Lawyer’s Mall in downtown Annapolis. It was dedicated in 1996, three years after Marshall’s passing. In 2005, BWI Airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in his honor.

The Old Fourth Ward Marker

Corner of West and Washington streets, Annapolis

The Old Fourth Ward historical marker honors the historic Black community in Annapolis along West Street and nearby Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the marker, “Its distinctive identity sparkled in its heyday of 1920–1950 when blacks and whites flocked here to enjoy a common interest in great music and moving pictures.”

The Old Fourth Ward became part of Ward 2 when four new wards were established in Annapolis in 1951. The marker notes that “Although the political entity ended, the cohesion of the neighborhood did not.”

Banneker-Douglass Museum

84 Franklin St., Annapolis

Banneker-Douglass Museum is the State of Maryland’s official museum of African American heritage. It serves to “document, to interpret, and to promote African American history and culture…in order to improve the understanding and appreciation of America’s rich cultural diversity for all.”

The museum opened in 1984 and is housed in the former Mt. Moriah A.M.E. church, built in 1875. Mt. Moriah was home to the first institution created by “free persons of color,” dating back to the 1790s. 

The Banneker-Douglass Museum closed at the start of the pandemic, but you can browse its online collections at bannekerdouglass.pastperfectonline.com.

Walking Tour of Eastport

Stroll through Eastport, just across the drawbridge from Annapolis, to learn about the historically African American neighborhood that was home to watermen, seafood processors, and boatbuilders. Along the tour, which was created by the African American Voices, Memories and Places: A Four Rivers Heritage Trail, you can learn about the history of Davis’ Pub, the Peerless Rens social club, McNasby’s Seafood and Oyster Company, and the Seafarers Yacht Club, which is housed in the former elementary school for African American children before segregation.

Breonna Taylor Mural

Breonna Taylor mural in Chambers Park in Annapolis

Chambers Park, Annapolis

Annapolis’s newest memorial is dedicated to Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT fatally shot in her apartment last spring in Louisville, K.Y. The 7,000-square-foot mural was a collective project by the Annapolis nonprofit Future History Now, the Banneker-Douglass Museum and the Maryland Commission on African American History. Volunteers spent several days painting the mural in Chambers Park in early July.

African American Voices, Memories and Places: A Four Rivers Heritage Trail

The Four Rivers Heritage Area is a local nonprofit organization that highlights Anne Arundel County historical sites. The organization promotes learning through local lectures, events and activities. The African American Heritage Trail is broken into six peninsulas in Anne Arundel County: St. Margarets, Annapolis, Mayo, the Rhode and West River region, Lothian/Shady Side, and Deale/Friendship area. The virtual trail highlights historic sites, both surviving and not, as well as other points of interest to African American history in Anne Arundel County.

Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center 

Earning its place in history as the first secondary school in the county for African American students, from 1933 until desegregation, the Wiley H. Bates High School is now the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center which preserves not only the history of the philanthropist whose name is on the building, but showcases the lives of more ordinary folks. Mr. Bates was elected to the City Council in 1897. In this role he successfully presented a petition from the African American community that the City provide a school for their children.

—Ann Levelle

Find more ways to celebrate Black History all year long.

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