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    'A story of resiliency': Mapping the history of Black beaches, entertainment venues

    By Michael Reid,

    2024-06-12

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0kNaTs_0trtOabG00

    Historical locations are important and recently the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation partnered with the Chesapeake Conservancy to shine a light on some of these lesser-known areas in the country.

    A total of 65 historical Black beaches and other regional places of historical significance, including 30 in Maryland, made the list.

    On the Eastern Shore and Delmarva Peninsula places such as Henry Beach, Briddletown, Camp Cal Mar, Sumner Hall, San Domingo, Gallup’s Court, Northampton, Jason’s Beach and Rosedale Beach make the list.

    “It’s all a story of resiliency,” Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation President and Founder Vince Legget said to Southern Maryland News. “From my standpoint I’m never going to leave anybody in the hold of a slave ship or in any rice, sugar cane or cotton plantations. Yes that is part of our story and part of our legacy, but as Maya Angelou said, ‘And yet we rose and we continue to rise.’”

    A news release said the story map “highlights places spanning from the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America to the creation of Black entertainment venues during the time of Jim Crow,” and that information was gleaned from sources such as the Negro Motorist Green Book.

    “I think it’s a good thing if they can connect with the youth,” Janice Walthour, education committee chair for the St. Mary’s County NAACP, said. “That’s the key — make it relevant to today’s youth. I think they have no idea what life was like.”

    In Southern Maryland, Charles County has three sites — Glymont, Camp Stanton and Wellington Beach/Payton’s Landing.

    The story map states that “during the time of Jim Crow, Black patrons could not purchase a ticket for a steamboat cruise,” so instead local groups would organize trips, such as one to Glymont in 1876.

    At the north end of the Port Tobacco River was Wellington Beach/Payton’s Landing, which the map said was “most likely one of the stops for the two steamships that brought Black people down the Potomac.”

    “I am happy to see we are preserving the history, and we are seeing now that there are challenge and opposition in our society today that is trying to rewrite history,” Charles County NAACP President Dyotha Sweat said. “They are trying to basically erase it but the beaches are just as important as any other contribution that we made in this country, so I’m glad that we have this one piece of history that’s not going away.”

    Calvert has Dares Beach and the Lore Oyster House.

    “It’s very important because the people that know about [the sites] are slowly dying off,” Michael Kent, former Calvert County NAACP president and longtime historian, said. “And when they’re gone no one’s going to know about them.”

    The map states Lore Oyster House “was a successful seafood packaging company” and that shuckers working at the plant “were mainly local Black women and men who were paid a set rate for each gallon of oysters they opened.”

    “It was a job center for many, many Blacks,” Kent said of the facility, which held a grand re-opening on June 11. “You could either work there or in the tobacco fields. In the 1950s when they started building roads, there was more money to be had on road crews than shucking oysters.”

    Kent felt the story map should have included the Blacks-only camp and pool at Kings Landing and Seagull’s Beach, which was located just south before the Route 231 bridge over the Potomac River.

    He said many Black beaches were on the river as many of the towns on the Chesapeake Bay side were sundown towns, in which Blacks had to leave by dusk. Seagull’s Beach had pavilions, a house band called The Hounds, a dining area and drew entertainers such as James Brown and Ray Charles.

    Kent said the area was “very popular and supposedly high class,” and added his family never went because they were unable to afford the 75 cent admission.

    St. Mary’s is represented by Notely Hall and River View.

    The map states the area had two amusement parks in the 1890s — Notely Hall for Black people and River View for white people. Notely Hall was owned and operated by Black business owners and Black residents from Washington, D.C., visited after a newspaper called it “a collection of attractions unsurpassed by any place of amusement on the river.”

    Both parks were abandoned by the 1920s.

    Walthour’s uncle Leroy Thompson owned an area called Longview just south of the same general area where she worked as a waitress. She said she liked it “pretty much, but realized it wasn’t for me” after working dances the night before and getting up at 6 a.m. the following morning.

    “It’s so important that we continue to do the hard work of ensuring that the story of the Chesapeake is told through ebony eyes,” Leggett said in the release.

    “At the end of the day we need to stop pigeon-holing the African American story” Sweat said, and added, “We need to share the holistic story of the African American experience in America.”

    For more information or to see the story map, go to www.chesapeakeconservancy.org.

    Twitter: @MichaelSoMdNews

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