Maryland Families Rest at the Heart of the State’s History at the Maryland Historical Society in Mt. Vernon

Today’s bike ride took me up the hill through Hampden and then over to Roland Park to meet V. for lunch and some reading and writing. Roland Park is so fancypants, what with its Greek-columned mansions hidden behind personal forests and Tuxedo pharmacies and complicated cul de sacs that are hard to figure out unless you live there. It’s like an entirely different city, that place. I huffed and puffed and grandma-ed my way up the hill, but the ride home was divine–there’s nothing quite like flying down a hill in the sunshine, skirt waving, feeling the false protection of the bike lane. After a pit stop at home I was back n the bike continuing the flight downhill, this time to the Maryland Historical Society for their Arts and Culture Happy Hour. This one was titled “Maryland’s African American Experience Through the Lens of Arts and Culture,” though it was mostly about the new pop-up display from the Maryland State Archives titled “Flee,” about enslaved people who escaped from bondage. I snapped this picture as the director of the project talked about compiling and sorting the archive of the experiences of enslaved peoples in Maryland. Newspapers and other ephemera feature between 100,000 and 300,000 mentions of individuals, depending on whom you ask, and each of those mentions is somebody’s ancestor. It’s time to name names, or the Maryland families at the heart of the State’s history will only and ever be the elite, even the apparently good-hearted ones, like the Carey’s featured in this display (thought I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about the constant representation of the Quakers as racial justice heroes–it’s more complicated than that, and I’d love to go on and on about it–ask me!). After his introduction I got myself a glass of wine and chatted with him about the project, which started, barely, around 2001. There was funding for awhile, but now the project depends on interns and volunteers. They’d like to complete archives on individuals, one from each of the 50 Maryland counties, just to let researchers know the kinds of materials that will be available there. They’re the archivists, not the historians, he reminded me. I thanked him–that’s seriously important work he’s doing there–and then chatted with my well-dressed colleague, and then it was time to head back up the hill to home. It was a good day.

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