Friday, August 20, 2021

Did You Know?

Yesterday I found myself drawn to a post by Marlena Jareaux  of the EC Black History Roundtable. Looking at the 1860 census, she asks a number of questions, including:

Did you know there were 175 Free Black or Mulatto people recorded as living in the District that was made up of the Ellicott City post office? 

No. No, I didn’t. As Ellicott City prepares to celebrate 250 years it often seems that I see the same two Black notables in all the publicity photos: Benjamin Banneker and the County Executive. I found her post fascinating so I went to the page on the EC Black History Roundtable website that deals with the 1860 census. 

This website contains “ECBlackHistory”, but that does not mean it will only contain the names of Black people from the county’s past. What it does mean is that due to the story of Black Howard Countians being profoundly missing from historical accounts of the county, they will be emphasized here and given center stage because of that. 

Local stories are important to me, and the fact that our culture has done so little to honor and preserve the stories of Black men and women is unconscionable. The work that Ms. Jareaux and the EC Black History Roundtable are doing is necessary for all of us in order to grow in our understanding of a more complete and balanced history. It is especially valuable for the members of our community whose stories have been forgotten or suppressed outright.

While I was mulling this over I came across this piece from Margaret Barthel of WAMU:

You can read the piece, with accompanying maps and photographs, and/or listen to the audio. I did both. The dedication and persistence of Karen Hughes moved me.

Hughes is the founding director of the Fauquier County Afro-American Historical Association. She started researching local history in the late 1980s, desperate to help her daughter see her Black ancestors in the history she was learning at school.

The result of her work is this:

This summer, Hughes and her team — which includes her granddaughter, her sister, and a number of cousins — published the result of her passion for history: an interactive map of more than 140 sites of Black schools, churches, and communities in Fauquier County, with information on the Black families who lived here.

This immediately brought to mind the Harriet Tubman School and the years-long effort by Black residents, many of them former students of the school, to preserve it and open it as an educational center. And yet it again it stirred my sense of heartbreak and outrage at the recent destructive acts at the school which defaced historical displays and destroyed rare and precious ephemera.

Attempting to suppress or erase or lie about the history of Black people in this country is a deeply violent, oppressive act. Those in our community who are working to bring that history to light are doing important work. I am grateful for them. Did you learn about this story in school? Probably not.

(Taken from EC Black History Roundtable website)

…in 1901, Samuel F. Whipps (father of 26 children) was telling a reporter that he was going to file suit to eject Negros from the cemetery or dig up the graves himself if they didn’t do it!

When I woke up this morning, trying to decide what to write about today, I came across this piece shared by HoCo School Equity

I took it as a sign. 

To those who maintain that examining the factual truths of American history is unpatriotic, I offer this quote:

Racism is divisive. Learning about racism is not. - - Jess Piper

The EC Black History Roundtable now has 501c3 status, so you can send them a (tax-deductible) contribution to support their work. Click here to learn more. 

UPDATE: Shout out to HoCoMoJo’s Ilana Bittner who clued me in on EC Black History Project’s connection to Howard County Lynching Truth & Reconciliation. 

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