Maryland's Mixed Legacy

Maryland's Mixed Legacy

From the desk of
Burt Kummerow

Volume 2 Issue 2

February 5, 2013

Just eight years after Maryland was born, a man of color named Mathias da Sousa voted as a freeman in the colonial legislature. Two decades later, a rebellious African slave called Antonio was murdered by his master at the same house in St. Mary's City. From the outset, Maryland has been ground zero for the tense drama of race relations that has defined the American Experience.

Placed between America's north and south, Lord Baltimore's Colony became a pivot for the new country's long road to freedom for all. For every step forward, there was retreat in a state split over the issue of slavery and civil rights.

"Joshua Johnson Manumission Record, July 15 1792," Special Collections, MdHS, MS2865

As a freed slave named Joshua Johnson painted portraits of up and coming Baltimore families, hundreds of slaves were fleeing Chesapeake plantations seeking refuge with British invaders during the war of 1812.

Before the Civil War, brave Maryland leaders like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were supporting an Underground Railroad while plantation owners dug in their heels, willing to secede from the union rather than accept an end to slavery. After Maryland led the country, emancipating its slaves in 1864, local Confederates returned from a devastating civil war and ushered in a century of Jim Crow.

"Rebecca Myring Everette (Mrs. Thomas Everette) and her Children," Joshua Johnson, 1818, MdHS, 1976.96.4

The paradoxes continued through the first half of the 20th century. After a 1933 lynching on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the last in the state, Baltimore and Thurgood Marshall led the Civil Rights struggle in the 1950s with groundbreaking demonstrations and sit-ins.

Four centuries of Maryland history hold the keys to America's racial ambivalence. The Maryland Historical Society, with rich, nationally recognized collections of memories in its museum and library, is dedicated to weaving that story - not just into Black History Month, but throughout all of its many exhibits and programs. I encourage you to visit our museum and see our special exhibits - such as The Paul Henderson Photograph Collection. Our February events commemorate Maryland's role in the Civil Rights movement, and much more. Do join us.

February Events at
The Maryland Historical Society

"We have a generation that does not know our strength. That we are from the descendents of slaves... how we carried forth. My hope is that the post-Civil Rights Generation can look down through history & see from whence they came." These haunting words were spoken by one of the participants in the For All the World to Hear oral history project.

"For All the World to Hear Participants," Photo Courtesy: UMBC

On Tuesday, February 12 from 6-8 pm, you're invited to listen as 10 Baltimore residents share their first-hand experience from the Civil Rights era.

The individuals you will hear from put themselves on the line for freedom demonstrating extraordinary character and courage.

Following this powerful performance, artistic director Harriet Lynn will lead a mediated and interactive audience discussion. Refreshments will be provided.

For All the World to Hear is organized by UMBC's Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture, and made possible by the Maryland Humanities Council.

This important, free event is open to the public. To register, visit our website, or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377.

The Civil Rights Movement at MdHS

In addition to its oral history collection, The Maryland Historical Society holds an important collection of Civil Rights materials, including The Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, manuscripts, books, journals, pamphlets and other documents.

And if you have yet to see our exhibit "Paul Henderson: Baltimore's Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960," I encourage you to take a look. Paul Samuel Henderson (1899-1988) was born in Springfield, Tennessee and moved to Baltimore in 1929, where he worked as staff photographer and occasional writer for the Baltimore Afro-American.

Henderson's photographs capture every day moments of both famous and ordinary African-American citizens of Baltimore over the course of a twenty-year period during the Civil Rights era from 1940 to 1960.

"Picketers Outside Ford's Theatre," Paul Henderson, 1948, MdHS, HEN.00.A2-178

The Henderson Photograph Collection contains over six thousand negatives and several hundred prints, of which only a small fraction have been identified. In fact, we continue to work on this with the community today. The Maryland Historical Society acquired the photographs after the Baltimore City Life Museum (also known as the Peale Museum) closed its doors in 1997. The collection came to MdHS unprocessed and with little useful description. In 2010, Towson University's Historic Preservation class began reprocessing and over the past two years interns, volunteers, and staff completed the project. The result is an unparalleled visual record of Civil Rights in Baltimore.

Photographs from The Henderson Collection are on display in the Maryland Historical Society's main gallery, and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday from 10 am-5 pm and Sunday 12 pm-5 pm. For more details, click here.

A Special Civil War Tribute Program

Roderick Howard II as Christian Fleetwood, image courtesy Harriet Lynn

In celebration of Black History month, the Maryland Historical Society is hosting a Civil War Tribute Program that will be performed by our own MdHS Players. This 'living history' program will take place on Saturday, February 9 at 2pm. Actors will portray Harriet Tubman and Union Sergeant Major and Medal of Honor recipient Christian Fleetwood.

Some of you may be wondering who Sergeant Major Fleetwood was. In fact, I'm surprised he hasn't been given a larger place in the Civil War history books.

Fleetwood was born in 1840 in Baltimore to free black parents, Charles and Anna Marie. They instilled the importance of learning at an young age - young Christian received an excellent early education, graduated from college at Ashmun Institute in Oxford, Pennsylvania and went on to start one of the first African American newspapers, called the Lyceum Observer, right here in Baltimore.

"I'm particularly fascinated by how well-educated Sergeant Major Fleetwood was," says Roderick Howard II, the actor who portrays Fleetwood. "He travelled to Africa as part of the Maryland Colonization Society and was profoundly influenced by hearing Frederick Douglass speak."

Fleetwood was highly respected by his neighbors and, because of his education, was quickly promoted in the Union Army.

During the battle of Chaffin's Farm in September, 1864, the Union army was outflanked. Two of its color bearers were killed. "Fleetwood picked up the flag and proceeded to march," Roderick continued, "I don't know how he had the courage to carry that flag through the battle field like that!"

But Fleetwood did, and his actions served to rally the Union troops. While the battle ended with no clear victor, Fleetwood's bravery did not go unnoticed. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts - the first African American to receive the distinction.

"The more I learn about Fleetwood, the prouder I am to portray him," Roderick says. "He had the courage to fight for his country despite the fact that not many in the country at the time respected him."

The Maryland Historical Players are not just actors; several also work as Museum Educators, and all of the Players conduct independent research into the characters they portray in order to fully understand their lives. "Sergeant Major Fleetwood completely lost his hearing in one ear and was almost deaf in another, yet after the war he composed Gospel music," Howard said. "He didn't like to speak in public; he let his songs do the talking."

Roderick, we thank you for bringing Sergeant Major Fleetwood to life like you do!

Come see the Roderick's performance of Sergeant Major Fleetwood at 2pm on Saturday, February 9th. No advance reservations are necessary.

And if you are interested in hosting a performance of our MdHS Players at your school or organization, contact Events Manager Katie Caljean at 410-685-3750 ext 337.

Other Events in February

"George Washington and His Generals at Yorktown," Charles Wilson Peale, 1781, MdHS, 1845.3.1

Our annual Francis Scott Key Lecture series begins on Thursday, February 7th at 6 pm with a fascinating lecture about "The Fine Art of Portraying George Washington" by Carol Borchert Cadou.

Cadou is the Senior Curator and VP of Collections for George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. In addition to discussing several important paintings of Washington in the Maryland Historical Society Collection, Ms. Cadou will offer a glimpse into the history and the preservation of the Washington Estate and its rich collection of fine and decorative arts.

Tickets are $40 per lecture, or $175 for the complete Francis Scott Key Lecture series (couples series for $300). See our website for more information and to register. Call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377 for details.  


Maritime Lecture Series:
'Free Trade and Sailor's Rights


On Friday, February 22nd at 6:30 pm, join Paul Gilje, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma, as he presents his pioneering research on the question of sailors' rights during the War of 1812. His lecture will be based on the research behind his forthcoming book, Free Trade and Sailor's Rights.

Book description:

On July 2, 1812, Captain David Porter raised a banner on the USS Essex proclaiming "A free trade and sailors rights," thus creating a political slogan that explained the War of 1812. Free trade demanded the protection of American commerce, while sailors' rights insisted that the British end the impressment of seamen from American ships.

Repeated for decades in Congress and in taverns, the slogan reminds us today that our second war with Great Britain was not a mistake. It was a contest for the ideals of the American Revolution bringing together both the high culture of the Enlightenment to establish a new political economy and the low culture of the common folk to assert the equality of humankind. Understanding the War of 1812 and the motto that came to explain it - free trade and sailors' rights - allows us to better comprehend the origins of the American nation.

The book is already receiving critical acclaim; Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard Law School says, "This is a fascinating work; an extremely valuable contribution to the literature on the Early American Republic. With rich detail, Gilje shows how a simple, but powerful, slogan kept the promise of the American Revolution alive in the hearts and minds of those outside the corridors of power."

This is a free event, and light refreshments will be served. To register, visit our website or call 410-685-3750 Ext. 377


'Baltimore Bootleggers Bash!'
Presented By:

Ruff Roofers

"Not many people know this, but Baltimore was a prime spot for bootleggers in the 1920s," says Chandler Denison, Chairman of the Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society. "While the rest of America had 'dry' laws that outlawed the sale of liquor, Maryland never endorsed Prohibition. And Baltimore, in particular, was viewed as a hotbed of resistance. Our city's independent spirit really showed through."

Celebrating this storied past, the Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society are presenting a night of glamour and revelry - speakeasy-style -at 9pm on February 23. The event, called the 'Baltimore Bootleggers Bash,' will be held at Meli Restaurant in historic Fells Point (1636 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD 21231). Formal dress and 1920s attire is encouraged.

The Baltimore Bootleggers Bash will feature heavy hors d'oeuvres, special Prohibition cocktails, a full open bar, and special small-batch liquor from The American Still Life Collection, provided by The Country Vintner.

The great Swingin' Swamis - named 'one of the premier area party bands' by Baltimore Magazine - will be playing jazz and 1920s-era standards.

"We are hosting this event in honor of the history that shaped our city, and in celebration of Baltimore's fiercely independent spirit," Denison said.

About the Young Defenders

Young Defenders Logo

The Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society are focused on reinvigorating history in Maryland through social engagement and historical events. "The Bootleggers Bash is our inaugural event," Denison said, "We are really excited about it. We want to introduce Maryland's rich and intriguing history to a new generation of Old Line State residents."

Ticket prices: $65.00 (advance purchase); $75.00 (day of event); $55.00 (members of the Maryland Historical Society).

Tickets can be purchased securely online at or by calling 410.685.3750 x399.

All proceeds will support the Maryland Historical Society. The Baltimore Bootleggers Bash is being presented by Ruff Roofers, Maryland's preferred roofing contractors crowning the Maryland State House, Baltimore City Hall, and properties throughout the state. Additional support is generously provided by Batoff Associates, P.A., Venable Foundation, Roundtop Mountain Resort, KatzAbosch, ShopRite, Clinkee, The Country Vitner, and Flying Dog Brewery.


Our February Book Sale!


We're once again opening our vaults and deeply discounting our publications - this time, for Black History Month!

Our handsome, 3-set African American Studies Bundle is regularly $70 - but through February 28, you can own it for just $40. That's a 40% discount!

Titles include:

* Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake- Black and White Resistance to Human Bondage 1775-1865, by T. Stephen Whitman
* A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland, by the Maryland State Archives and the University of Maryland College Park
* On Afric's Shore- the History of Maryland in Liberia 1834-1857, by Richard L. Hall

And, you can save an extra 10% on ALL of these individual items, listed below:

-- On Afric's Shore
-Can A Coal Scuttle Fly?
-A Guide to the History of Slavery in MD
-Thurgood Marshall - American Revolutionary

Simply click on the link to place your order. Remember, all sale prices are good through February 28th.

We thank you for your support.


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I hope you're enjoying our monthly History Alive! E-newsletter. If you have a friend or family member who might enjoy receiving up-to-the-minute news and information about our events and exhibitions (and, of course, our trivia questions), simply send them this link:

And they can sign up!

Speaking of Trivia...

Trivia Time!

Congratulations are in order! We received many correct answers to last month's question. The Peale Museum was the first place in Maryland to use gas lighting. Its founder, Rembrandt Peale, eventually started a municipal gas lighting system, making Baltimore the first American city to implement the new technology.

Ready for this month's question?

This building resides in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore and was built in 1897 as a factory complex for the Crown Cork and Seal Company. The Company's founder, Montgomery County native William Painter, is famed for making nearly 100 patents. Painter's crowning achievement, the Crown Cork, was a predecessor to the modern bottle cap and gained almost immediate use after its invention 1892, replacing the traditional corks used to stop sodas and beers. Countless Crown Corks left the factory and for a time it was the center for the new industry. Today, the factory produces work with more erudite ends and goes by a different name. Name that building!

Email us your answer, and best of luck!  

Until next month,
Burt Sig 2
Burton Kummerow
President, The Maryland Historical Society

Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine."

The Society is located at 201 W. Monument Street and open to the public Wednesday-Saturday
from 10 am-5 pm,
and Sunday (museum only) 12 pm-5pm.