In observance of Black History Month, we’re publishing Tuckahoe, a cycle of poems which beckon us to learn more about Frederick Douglass’s life and times – and to Stand in the Place.
You might not see them from the road. You have to stop and get out. Walk around for a closer look. Crypts floating to the surface.
This is St. Paul AME Church. It’s one of dozens of segregated black churches that organized in Caroline County and throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland after 1865.
I visited the St. Paul’s AME Church a few weeks ago. The scene was incredible. Pulpit, piano, pews, and stained glass were still in place. I found hand-hewn sill timbers – evidence that the building was indeed built in the early 1800s, as noted by one source.
The roof is caving in. One of the newer headstones in the graveyard was deliberately toppled off its pediment. Within a generation, this old church building will die and disappear into the landscape like many others. The gravestones will remain hidden under tangled vines for a thousand years. Then they will disappear, too.
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The first woman president of the NAACP, Dr. Enolia P. McMillan, started her professional career as a teacher in Caroline County in 1927, when she taught at the Denton segregated black high school.
Their daughter Rosetta reminded those who admired her father:
“The story of Frederick Douglass’ hopes and aspirations and longing desire for freedom … was a story made possible by the unswerving loyalty of Anna Murray.”
As many as four or five two- and three-mast sailing vessels at a time were often tied up at the Denton wharves. I often had the job of leading the mule forward to lift the bag out of the vessel’s hold, and backing him up again to drop the bag onto the wharf and to lower the tongs back into the hold for another bag. You get the picture – the mule and the boy – back and forth all day until the last bag was out of the hold.