African-American History & Culture
Culture shapes lives.
“There were no African Americans before the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A new culture emerged out of the trauma of that history and through traditions made and remade on new shores. This self-creation is everywhere in the day-to- day lives of African Americans. It’s in the food eaten, the languages spoken, the art created, and many other forms of cultural expression. Held within and passed through families and communities, African American culture reflects beliefs, informs behavior, fosters creativity, and most of all, sustains the spirit during times of overwhelming adversity.” – National Museum of African-American History & Culture
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.
A historic marker at the end of the MD Route 328 bridge over Tuckahoe River commemorates Douglass and his birthplace. But the historic marker is 6 miles off. A local historian matched places named in Douglass’s autobiographies with local land records, newspapers, and other sources. He published his conclusion about the birthplace in a 1985 bio of Douglass.
We updated our map app that shows clues in the Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace. See the full-size app here.
The Star-Democrat newspaper incorrectly reported that the location of Douglass’s birthplace is not precisely known. In fact, you can stand within 30 yards of the exact site of the cabin where Douglass was born, and where he was raised by his grandmother, Betsy Bailey.
In West Denton … there were two blacksmith Shops serving the farmers and residents of the area. One was operated by a Negro named Walter Moore … I doubt if any kingdom ever fell because Walter’s nails came loose.
Rosetta Douglass Sprague wrote in the memoir about her mother, Anna Murray Douglass, that young Frederick Bailey “gave his heart” to Anna Murray, and she “sympathized with him and she devoted all her energies to assist him” to escape slavery in Baltimore. Why Anna Murray? Because she was the girl from down home in Tuckahoe Neck.
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.
Almost all of the old buildings are gone. But we can lay old maps over aerial and satellite imagery of Caroline County to find the places where they once stood.
Do the “helicopter tour” of the school sites as they look today. We fly north to south – 1000 feet above each of 14 sites. Click any site name to explore the site in an interactive map.
The helicopter route map below shows all 14 sites.
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.”