Travel back in time in Dorchester County this February – or any time of year – to meet the pioneers, patriots, and freedom fighters who changed the course of history. The birthplace of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, and home of civil rights icon Gloria Richardson, Dorchester’s cultural tapestry has been inspired by generations of Black leaders, enslaved people, and ordinary citizens. We’ve featured some below. There are also some special happenings in honor of Black History Month:
Black History Month Events
- Special programming at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland every weekend in February. Topics of the Saturday talks include the meaning of putting Tubman on the $20 bill, Patty Cannon and the Reverse Underground Railroad, and ranger-guided talks. On Sundays, there are traditional children’s games and crafts. More info.
- The Dorchester Center for the Arts presents “A Sin of Omission” by Pierre Bowins, an exhibit that combines critical historical research and mindful mapping of Black American designers and influential movements throughout design history. Feb. 3-25; free reception Feb. 11, 5-7pm. More info.
The Underground Railroad hero was born into slavery here in Dorchester County more than 200 years ago. She escaped, then returned more than a dozen times to lead friends and family to freedom – risking her life each time. Experience stories of hope and redemption along the scenic road trip known as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which includes sites related to Tubman and other freedom seekers in the 1800s. Don’t miss the free guide and the free audio app, which uses dramatic narrations and virtual reality and augmented reality features to bring the history to life. Learn more
Handsell Historic Site
Head to the historic Handsell property in Vienna, Maryland, which shares a three-pronged story through history that includes African Americans, Native Americans, and European settlers. Their research team has compiled information on 214 enslaved individuals associated with Handsell in Dorchester County and Anne Arundel County. Handsell’s Enslaved Community Database is a comprehensive list of enslaved persons who are connected with the Rider-Billings-Steele families of Dorchester and 19th century owners of Handsell plantation. They have been trying to “build a life” for the many forgotten enslaved people, who sometimes were initially remembered only by a name and age on a slave inventory. With much research, they have been able to trace the movements of some in later life and slowly watch a life story emerge. In 2021, they also dedicated a memorial stone to the enslaved people of Handsell.
Civil Rights Movement
Tie up your walking shoes to see where civil rights history was made in Cambridge’s Pine Street community, home of pioneering civil rights leader Gloria Richardson in the 1960s. (Richardson passed away in 2021.) Take the two-mile, self-guided Pine Street Walking Tour in person or read the brochure from your armchair. Order the hardcopy brochure or download the PDF. And don’t miss the free audio guide, with narrators sharing firsthand memories. Also, see the African American Heritage Mural in Cambridge, part of the Chesapeake Mural Trail.
Spocott Windmill & Village
Learn about the Wheatleys, a couple who lived at what is now Spocott Windmill & Village starting in the mid-1800s. The husband Columbus was a Civil War veteran and master craftsman; his wife Adaline was a renowned cook and giver of sage advice. Learn more.
Stanley Institute One-Room Schoolhouse
Stanley Institute is one of Maryland’s oldest schools organized and maintained by a Black community. Learn more about this restored 1865 one-room schoolhouse in Cambridge, Maryland, and watch the virtual 360 video tour. Across the street from Stanley is Christ Church, a restored church that the local Black community built in 1875. It’s one of the oldest surviving African American churches from the post-Civil War period on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore.
Historic Black Churches
Dorchester County is home to several historic Black churches, including:
Malone’s Church, which features the graves of many of Harriet Tubman’s family members, including her nephew and in-laws, and several civil war veterans.
Bethel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cambridge, which was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, serving as a meeting place for congregants to strategize, and plan their sit-ins and their walks through Cambridge.
Faith United Methodist Church, founded by the Rev. Sam Green, who also served as an Underground Railroad agent, helping Harriet Tubman and many others to freedom.
Explore these and other religious sites through a self-guided tour pamphlet and/or a free cell phone app. More info.