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    Juneteenth Heralding Heroes program honors Dorchester County's 563 Black men of the Civil War Black Men in Blue Civil War Veterans

    2024-06-12

    CAMBRIDGE - While serving on the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance or "Handsell" Board, Betsy Malkus felt greatly honored to work with and help research the family history roots of the late Shirley Jackson, “one of Dorchester’s true treasures,” Malkus said.

    Jackson’s family tree had already been traced to an ancestor who had been enslaved at the Handsell plantation. While looking at her tree, Malkus spotted ancestors who had served in the Civil War.

    Her knowledge of that topic was limited, but Malkus promised Jackson that she would continue searching to find any ancestors who had served.

    Sometime after she passed in December 2022, Malkus realized that 2024 would be an anniversary of Maryland accepting the Emancipation Proclamation.

    “I knew it was perfect for honoring her. It was readily agreed 18 months ago that Handsell would have the United States Colored Troops as the theme for this year,” Malkus said.

    While attending a lecture at the Dorchester County Historical Society, she met African American history scholar Dr. Clara Small, who, along with Teresa Neal had conducted research to find the names of 563 black men from Dorchester who served during the Civil War.

    “This amazing research has allowed me to look into the human side of history. Because these men were from here, I felt a special connection, especially after researching the three cultures that have lived in Dorchester County, the Native American, African American and of European descent. And it is my pleasure to dedicate this work to Miss Shirley,” Malkus said.

    The work she refers to is the upcoming Heralding Heroes Juneteenth weekend of programs in downtown Cambridge on Friday, June 14, and Saturday, June 15.

    “It will be part history, part honor and part glory, as we do our best to tell the tales of these heroic men. The community has come together like I have never seen. The combined efforts of Alpha Genesis CDC, Groove City Black Heritage, the Dorchester Center for the Arts, Dorchester County Historical Society, and, of course, Handsell," Malkus said.

    "It promises to be an event that the director of Maryland 250, a statewide heritage organization, called ‘exceptional.’ Holly Gilpin, Dorchester County Director of Tourism, did a wonderful job of bringing us all together to make this happen,” Malkus said.

    The weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday, June 14, with a free reception at the Dorchester Center for the Arts featuring Dr. Clara Smalls, where hostesses will be dressed in period clothing, Malkus said.

    At 7 p.m., a general overview of what Dorchester County looked like in the early stages of the Civil War will be presented, focusing on our Black men in blue, with specific details about some of the men.

    The ancestral archives show four or more soldiers with the following names: Banks, Camper, Carr or Kiah, Cephus or Seafers, Coleman, Cornish, Dixon or Dickerson, Enells, Green, Henry, Jackson, James, Johnson, Jolly, Kane, Manokey, Mitchell, Nichols, Pinkett, Robinson, Ross or Rose, Smith, Stafford, Stanley, Stewart, Thomas, Wheatley, Wing, Woolford or Young, according to Malkus.

    Deborah Scott, whose grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier, will share her family’s stories and information about the overall group. Scott serves as director of a museum in Wicomico County, Malkus said.

    On Saturday, June 15, at noon at the

    Dorchester County Courthouse, a short memorial service honoring all the colored troops who did not return will take place, with the VFW Maryland State Honor Guard.

    At 12:20 p.m., the names of 130 men from Dorchester present in Texas as the Emancipation Proclamation was finally read to Texas slaves, informing them of their freedom, will be read by several of their ancestors, along with some musical selections.

    “These Dorchester men serving as U.S. Colored Troops were themselves freeing slaves from bondage in the event we now call Juneteenth,” Malkus said.

    At 4 p.m., Jackson family historian Carol Nichols Armstrong will be at Dorchester Center for the Arts to share the life of Isaac Jackson, a Buffalo Soldier from Cambridge with stories, photos and documents. Former Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, one of his descendants, will be out of town for this year’s ceremony, but Malkus hopes she’s able to participate next year.

    “There will be a suggested donation of $5 for Friday night’s overview presentation, and everything during the day on Saturday is free and wide open to the public. Our Juneteenth weekend will be a family-friendly event, so children are especially welcome,” Malkus said.

    The festivities will return to DCA at 7 p.m. Saturday with a Jazz at the Mural concert featuring Allison Crockett, sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at HarrietTubmanMuseumCenter.org.

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