Celebrating East New Market Heritage Day

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Liturgical dancer Atear Frock dances with complete devotion at the East New Market Heritage Day celebration.

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
Liturgical dancer Atear Frock dances with complete devotion at the East New Market Heritage Day celebration.

EAST NEW MARKET — The 15th annual Heritage Day celebration was held this past Saturday in the Depot neighborhood in East New Market. Faith Community United Methodist Church held the celebration event once again, a venue made even more appealing by the warm, welcoming smile of the Rev. Ashley Jones, pastor of the church.

The theme for the event this year was “Footprints of the Past,” and it was a time to remember African American history, culture and the power of faith in the small community in East New Market.

Samuel Green received the honor of remembrance on this day. Samuel Green was born into slavery in East New Market, circa 1802. He worked as a farm slave in the fields of Dorchester County, married his wife Kitty and had two children. Samuel’s owner, Henry Nichols, died in 1832, and in his will gave the black man his freedom, effective five years after Nichols’ death. During the next year, Samuel earned enough money to pay off his remaining four years of service, and In 1842 he was able to purchase his wife for $100 from her owner Ezekial Richardson.
Samuel Green had a difficult life. Though he and his wife were free, his children remained enslaved, and acquiring their freedom became key in the Green’s lives. Samuel had acquired a rudimentary education somehow, and it is thought that he worked to tech other slaves how to read and write, a skill her certainly passed on to his children. Green was a “licensed exhorter” in the local Methodist Episcopal church, the only title available to a black minister in those times, as only whites could become full ministers in the church.

Green’s son escaped from Maryland in 1854, and was documented in the journals of William Still in Philadelphia as having been aided on his way by Harriet Tubman. Samuel Green fell under suspicion in the case of his son and in the possibility that he was helping other slaves seek freedom, and was incarcerated under suspicion when a search of his cabin found letters from his son in Canada, and a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In the ensuing trial Green’s possession of the book, deemed an “abolitionist handbill” was pronounced a felony, and Green was sent up for a minimum of ten years at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore. The case made national news in the country, and though a hew and cry was raised up over the fairness of the decision, governor Thomas Holliday Hicks, a native of Dorchester County, could not be persuaded to intervene in the court’s decision. Green was granted a conditional pardon when Augustus W. Bradford came into the governor’s office, on the condition that Green leave the state within 60 days.

The story of Samuel Green is a fascinating one, and worthy of more study by anyone interested in Easter Shore history. In the program for the celebration the Heritage Day organizers declared Green “Our Hero,” and he was mentioned in all of the talks during the program.

William Jarmon Jr. served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, and kept the program rolling along with dignity as well as humor. Musical selections were presented by the Waugh United Methodist Church Gospel Choir accompanied by pianist Shirley Stanley, and a solo was featured by Waugh member Victoria Jackson Stanley, Mayor of Cambridge. Reverend Jones also sang a solo with the choir.

East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline spoke, saying the “People who are not here today are missing something special.” Referencing the upcoming elections, she said, “I may not be here next year as mayor, but I will be here as a supporter and a friend.”

Mayor Cline quoted from Stephen Spender’s poem, The Truly Great, saying that she thinks of heroes not always of great, famous people but of simple folks doing good deeds. Visibly moved by the words, Mayor Cline repeated the last few lines of the poem twice, apropos of the struggles of the early residents of The Depot:

 

“The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.”

 

County Councilman Rick Price spoke enthusiastically of the celebration, and offered a proclamation from the County Council. Senator Addie Eckardt also spoke, with Delegate Johnny Mautz by her side, both delivering a proclamation from the Maryland Senate on the 15th anniversary of the event.

Keynote speaker for the day was Kate Larsen, author of the book, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. She spoke of the importance of research and discovery, in learning of our history and the lessons of earlier times.

Also speaking in the program were David Tolley, vice mayor of East New Market, Dorthea Abraham, Royce Sampson, Herschel Johnson, and Mary Dennard-Turner.
A very moving segment of the program included a dance by liturgical praise dancer Atear Frock. Upon closing the program, Herschel Johnson presented a plaque to Ms. Larson in appreciation for her participation in the event.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning in reverent appreciation of our local history. As Mayor Cline stated, if you missed it, you missed a very special day.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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