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Sumner Hall Featured on WBOC as Must See African-American History Museum in Delmarva

Black History Month: Exploring Delmarva’s African-American History Museums

Feb 13, 2017 | Posted by Paul Butler | WBOC’s DelmarvaLife

During Black History Month, many people like to tour historic museums and attractions to learn about the history of our country.

One of the most popular museums to get into on this side of the country is the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Currently, there is a three-month waiting list to get tickets to see the thousands of exhibits at the museum dedicated to telling the the history of African Americans in this country.

However, there are plenty of stories rich in African-American history right here in our own backyard. There are several smaller museums across Delmarva that showcase this history, such as the Charles Sumner Hall in Chestertown, Maryland.

“It’s a special building. Everyone that walks in here can pretty much tell that this is a special place,” said Nina Johnson, executive director of Sumner Hall.

After fighting in the Civil War, 28 African American men returned to Chestertown, and founded Charles Sumner Post #25 of the Grand Army of the Republic.

“There’s a lot of history here in terms of what this building stood for in terms of the community, in terms of helping people, outreach, and doing whatever needed to be done to support people in the community,” said Johnson.

For blacks living in Kent County, this hall later became known as the place to be to watch musical legends perform. Robert Earl Price, member of the Sumner Hall Committee, said he saw many well-known performers pass through the historic place.

“Performer’s of the quality of Ella Fitzgerald and the Sisters of the Rhythm have appeared on the stage inside Sumner Hall,” Price said.

The building had fallen in disrepair through the years, but with support from the community and organizations in Kent County, Maryland worked to bring it back to its glory. Now in great shape, the hall is open to school, church, and community tours.

A little farther south on Maryland’s mid-shore, is the well-known Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center in Cambridge. This local monument is a tribute to Tubman, who spent a third of her life in Dorchester County before escaping in 1849. It was shortly thereafter that she started the legendary Underground Railroad.

“During the 50’s up until 1857 she made at least 11 trips within the vicinity of Dorchester County to help members of the Ross family to escape this area,” said William Jarmon, a curator for the museum and education center. “And she was very successful and that she never loss a passenger, as she would say on the Underground Railroad.”

This humble museum in downtown Cambridge is rich in Tubman history, and stories of African Americans from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“We have a wall of portraits of Harriet Tubman which are all after the Civil War,” Jarmon said. “We also have paintings and artwork of what she might have looked like when she was younger.”

 

Jarmon said that the Museum is great for people of all ages, and interactive tours are done where participants can get on a bus and travel the 125-mile trek Tubman took on the Underground Railroad byway.

Also in Dorchester County, there is a brand new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center opening the weekend of March 11-12. This attraction on 17 acres in Church Creek hopes to tell Tubman’s story in a way that has never been done before.

“Tubman is timeless, she speaks that regardless of your disadvantages you can make choices and decisions that positively impact the community, and in Tubman’s case, the nation,” said Dana Paterra, manager of the park.

Inside the new 16,000-square-foot building will be exhibits placed all over, documenting the history and influence Tubman had on the Eastern Shore and this country.

Paterra added that a Tubman biographer, Kate Clifford Larsen will be conducting a program and book signing at the new park. Also on hand will be the National Park Service’s Poet, Dr. Sonia Sanchez, doing readings of her Harriet Tubman Haikus, as well as conducting writing workshops for families. The grand opening will take place on both March 11 and 12.

These places are a treasure to our national history, as well as our local story, and do the honor of displaying the history of thousands of African Americans from Delmarva.

Below is a list of each attraction from above with the address:

Charles Sumner Hall

206 S. Queen Street, Chestertown, MD 21620

Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center

424 Race Street, Cambridge, MD 21613

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park

4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, MD, 21622

410-221-2290

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Mister Roberts at The Garfield Center for the Arts Feb 3 – Feb 19, 2017

“Mister Roberts” opens Friday, Feb 3, 2017 and runs through February 19th. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 military/seniors and $10 for students. Tickets are available online at www.garfieldcenter.org or by calling 410-810-2060.

 

Photos by Jeff Weber

 

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A New Direction for Kent County Arts Council

leslie-prince-raimond-and-john-schratwieser-2017The Kent County Arts Council celebrates 2017 as a year of transition. Director Leslie Prince Raimond will welcome John Schratwieser (former Director of the Prince Theatre / Garfield Center for the Arts, and outgoing Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts) as a co-director in the summer of 2017. John and Leslie will work together to transition the arts council in several ways in the coming months. Leslie, after 35 years of service to the arts in Kent County, will retire at the end of the year, and John will take the reins of the Arts Council. In addition, Leslie and John are moving forward with the plan to purchase and renovate the Town Arts Building at 101 Spring Street in Chestertown, as an anchor/gateway building for Chestertown’s Arts & Entertainment District. The space will not only house the Kent County Arts Council, and a new gallery space, but also John’s other project. In November 2016, John assumed the directorship of AIR.C (Artist in Residence.Chestertown) which was created by Kelly and Alex Castro. Under John’s leadership AIR.C will morph into “Artikultur-MD; A space to create on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Part of the Town Arts Building will be dedicated to welcoming visiting artists who will be selected to engage arts based practices and solutions to social, civic and environmental issues. The partnership of the Kent County Arts Council and Artikultur-MD is designed to enhance and support the already strong arts ecosystem in Kent County. Leslie and John will be excited to unveil this new endeavor to the people of Kent County over the coming weeks and months.

town-arts-bldg-2017

Town Arts Building Chestertown

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