Uncovering the Black History in Dorchester County

MD-black history month dchs_2x Gloria Richardson

Dorchester Banner/AP Archives
Gloria Richardson, head of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, pushes aside a National Guardsman’s bayonet as she tries to convince a crowd to disperse, in 1963 at the start of the racial protests in Cambridge. The DCHS will offer two discussion programs during Black History Month, and is actively seeking and recording early African-American history stories in Dorchester County.

CAMBRIDGE — Try as we might, time won’t stand still—so history continues to grow. History is living, growing. Yet generally, when history is noted, mentioned or written, it is due to an abnormality, a change in course, a new event, experience or happening. When such an occurrence presents itself, it is duly noted, documented and added to databases for posterity. Take the recent storm, Jonas, for example.

Black history on the Eastern Shore, and in Dorchester specifically, is a different thing altogether because by and large, it has not been noted at all. Looking at two respected historian’s works–those of Dr. Elias Jones and Calvin Mowbray–illustrates this perfectly.

In Dr. Jones’ “The History of Dorchester County,” long held to be the county history standard, there are only three pages devoted to black history, with half of that relating to slavery. Mr. Mowbray’s works “Early Dorchester” and “First Families of Dorchester” provide a bit more information, although “First Families” makes no mention of African Americans at all.

This lack of documentation has proven to be, at the very least, frustrating to historians and researchers alike. And the time has come to right this wrong.
Toward that end, the Dorchester County Historical Society is working with local black communities to pull together and record all of the history of color that it can.
Records from churches, organizations, groups and individuals are being sought to copy and incorporate into the Todd Research Center and its archives. Documents, bible records, photographs, books and more are needed to begin to form the fabric of black history for future generations.

Offerings at the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester have been planned to encourage the sharing of personal histories from the black perspective, unfiltered or censored. The first offering will be shared on February 9th at 12 noon in the Robbins Heritage Center. Passages from “Everything I Seen,” a manuscript by Barbara Lockhart, will be read by Mrs. Nona Stanley. This work was developed from a years’ long relationship that Ms. Lockhart had with the subject, Mary Taylor. Ms. Taylor shared her thoughts, experiences and realities as an African American woman who lived in North Dorchester for decades. This presentation will include discussion by the audience.

The second offering “Civil Unrest in Cambridge” on Saturday, February 20th at 12 noon, will feature a discussion panel of local African Americans who were personally involved and affected by the demonstrations of the 1960s. Again, this will offer black history from the source, so to speak. Moderators Bill Jarmon and Bill Batson will pose questions to those on the panel, and to the audience as well.

Both of these offerings are free and open to the public. The Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester are located at 1003 Greenway Drive in Cambridge. For more information or to be involved, please call 410.228.7953 or email dchs@verizon.net.

MD-black history month dchs_2x BOYS

Dorchester Banner/AP Archives
Two schoolboys walk past National Guardsmen in Cambridge in 1963.

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