“The Hill” in Easton, now known as America’s OLDEST Free Black neighborhood

Earlier this evening, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Academy Art Museum, Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University announced evidence that “The Hill” neighborhood is Easton is now known as the OLDEST Free Black neighborhood in AMERICA.

Up until tonight, the distinction of being the oldest free neighborhood of color was held by Treme, in New Orleans.

How do they know?

They unearthed proof that a woman named Grace Brooks purchased a home on the Hill in 1789. In her name alone.

And that announcement came on the eve of this Juneteenth, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Eric Lowrey, Professor Green, Rev. Nancy Dennis

Eric Lowery of the Frederick Douglass Society, Professor Dale Glenwood Green, Rev. Nancy Dennis of St. Stephen’s AME Church in Unionville

The implications of this are enormous, of course. Socially, politically and economically, Easton will experience shifts as this progresses  – and who knows what kind of shifts will take place?

Smart leadership is going to be key – like Professor Green, the Frederick Douglass Society, Priscilla Morris, Carlene Phoenix, the Easton Town Council, local clergy and the myriad others – because big fancy titles and historic determinations and billions of tourism dollars could easily lead to tighter regulations and scrutiny and more building inspectors which can make for some tight feelings in poor neighborhoods. Things can unravel fast, and unintended consequences are hard to go back and undo.

Yet, Professor Green’s speech was electrifying and as a native son, he’s got all kinds of skin in this game. They are paying keen attention to all of it.

Whoa, Easton. Look at YOU.

Two things he said tonight that were fantastic:

First, he said five times – this is AMERICAN history, not black history, or Easton history, or Talbot County history – it’s our history.

And second, his main theme was – “let the LAND tell the story.” Spoken like a true historian, he was saying that it was the slow and steady searching of documents relating to land ownership that surfaced Grace Brooks’ story. It was the anthropology and the archaeology and the slow methodical research that unearthed details of what really happened on that little piece of land on The Hill.

He also said some pretty great stuff about not being judgmental about the area, which hit home.

Grace Brooks. Decades before Douglass, long before Harriet Tubman.

A woman who emancipated herself, her kids, her grandkids, and then bought a house. In 1789.

In Easton.

On the Hill.

What other stories are just waiting to be told?

~ by kbosin on June 14, 2013.

7 Responses to ““The Hill” in Easton, now known as America’s OLDEST Free Black neighborhood”

  1. Bravo, well said, well written. Lucky you for being in that room. Hearing with your heart makes it a great read. And Yay for the discovery of American history.So cool.

  2. Congrats Easton on a very significant discovery right here in our watershed. Thanks Kathy for passing on the story.

  3. I’d prefer to post on your blog, but because I signed up for wordpress for about 5 minutes once and can’t find a way out of that, I can’t post because I can’t remember my password…

    anyway, here is what I wanted to write there…

    Very moving… I think the phrase ‘hearing with your heart’ above explains perfectly why this has so much depth… So happy to see your words again, Kathy. This and the magical kingdom piece are such worthy work… keep leading with your heart…

    Repeat Daily: “Today I am thankful.”


  4. That is SO cool. One more way that Maryland ROCKS!

  5. My heart just literally skipped a beat reading this. So exciting!

  6. What a lady, that Grace Brooks!! She is indeed a role model in all of her accomplishments and challenges so long ago. She does inspire, not only women of color but all women. I cannot wait to bring my granddaughter to the public dig in town and teach her all about archaeology and the history of women’s liberation. As a newly published author about racism, FAMILY SECRETS: A JOURNEY OF GOOD AND EVIL, I am inspired to write a story about Grace Brooks in order to encourage all of our young women to achieve and follow their dreams.

  7. What a story! This is mind boggling. I grew up next door (in Denton) and know so little about African-American history on the Shore which is a crime -since I am African-American who shares the Brooks family surname. And I while whole-heartedly agree that it is American History, it’s terrible that generations of African-Americans have been deprived of this information. Kudos to Morgan State Univ. , Univ. of MD (my alma mater), and the local historians for making this project happen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: