Stories of Anne Arundel’s African-American history highlighted in Lost Towns project philton4 January 14, 2018 Uncategorized Inside the Galesville Community Center on Saturday, 55-year-old resident Fred Booze is more than happy to tell anybody willing to listen about his father’s “playground” summer program. Run by Melvin Booze, a well-known school teacher and preacher from the area, his son said it essentially acted as a day care run out of Anne Arundel County’s Department of Recreation and Parks, held at the community center for the region’s black youth for nearly 40 years. While the program wasn’t segregated, “there were only black kids there,” Fred Booze said. It served as a hub for the region’s black youth for decades and holds tales of a number of generations of kids that grew up in the south county town. It is stories like these the Lost Towns Project Inc., Anne Arundel’s historical and archaeological research outfit, hopes to continue to highlight and document during a series of public meetings across the county. The project is funded by grants from the National Park Service’s African-American Civil Rights Grant Program and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. The National Park Service grant covers the whole county, while the Maryland Heritage Area Authority’s focuses on the Four Rivers Heritage Area in Annapolis and south county. Saturday marked the beginning of the process, where officials hoped to start conversations with people like Booze about the area’s history. With subject matters like segregated beach resorts, social gathering spots and musical entertainment, the project has the broad goal of trying to chronicle what officials say is a commonly lost history of the black community’s effect on the region’s identity. Saturday’s meeting largely served as an introduction to the idea, with Dale Green, chair of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and a teacher at Morgan State University, showing the crowd how lost elements of black culture can be recovered through interviews with the region’s residents — backed up with everything from archaeological digs to deep dives into the region’s land records. Green told the story of “The Hill” in Easton on the Eastern Shore, what is believed to be one of the earliest free African-American settlements in the country. An eight-year project that saw researchers and archaeologists from the University of Maryland and Morgan State University working in tandem with local groups, many in the crowd were audibly shocked to hear about many of the project’s findings and how in-depth their research was. Green said the project managed to find some residents with 13 generations of lineage having lived at “The Hill” part of Easton and uncovered the first black person to own land in the region, who purchased it in 1792. “Oftentimes, their stories just go by without being heard,” Green said. Lyndra Marshall, a genealogist involved with the project, implored those in attendance to not be shy about highlighting the area’s history. She pointed to Daniel Easton, an 84-year-old who has lived in Easton his entire life and attended the Rosenwald School in town, the result of a philanthropic effort by Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and former Sears Roebuck President Julius Rosenwald to build schools for black children in the South during the era of segregation. Easton recalled how he was not allowed to eat with white patrons at an area restaurant, with the establishment setting up a sort of drive-thru window for black customers to pick up their food. “You weren’t allowed to eat inside the building,” Easton said. Marshall said it’s important for the community to not be reluctant in sharing these stories with researchers. “We are our own worst enemy. We don’t tell our own stories. So now is the best time to do so,” she said, pointing to a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. about how “the time is always right to do what is right.” As the group began to break for lunch, Booze told of how his father had fostered the area’s youth regardless of whether they could afford to pay for it. Students would have lunch provided to them, he said, and the community center had everything from horseshoes to a carrom board, a game of South Asian origin that blends elements of pool and shuffleboard. “This one little piece (of the town) … was us. This was our families,” he said. It’s eccentricities like this that the county hopes to uncover as the program moves forward. The second meeting will be held Jan. 27 at the Bates Legacy Center, 1101 Smithville St. in Annapolis. Historian Janice Hayes-Williams will be the speaker. The third meeting will be Feb. 17 at the Linthicum Community Library, 400 Shipley Road. The speaker will be Tony Spencer, the great-great-grandson of James Spencer, a co-founder of the free African-American community of Freetown. For more information about the project, visit www.losttownsproject.org. Staff writer E.B. Furgurson III contributed to this article. twitter.com/PhilDavis_CG Source link Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.