- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BUCKEYSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Black history authorities say getting more black-history sites on the National Register of Historic Places requires nominating more sites and including recent research on existing nominations.

Mary Harris, from Adamstown, Md., counts freed slaves among her ancestors. She joined with regional historians at a mid-November workshop in Buckeystown to accomplish these two strategies.

She detailed how after emancipation, former slaves quickly began living in the tobacco shacks where they’d previously worked for their former masters.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnerships’ African American Heritage committee aims to expand knowledge of blacks’ historical impact along U.S. 15 from Gettysburg to Monticello, Va. That 175-mile corridor is known as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground.

Frisby Tilghman’s country home on Md. 65 south of Hagerstown is a perfect example of a site that should be on the register, according to Deborah Lee who consults the committee.

She said Mr. Tilghman was one of Washington County’s largest slaveholders where James W.C. Pennington lived. After he escaped slavery, he had great influence as an abolitionist, minister and author.

That’s the kind of history Miss Lee and Miss Harris think can make a difference when getting a site placed on the register.

L’Hermitage, where 90 slaves once labored on the Best farm, is another possible site according to Joy Beasley, a National Park Service cultural resources manager. She said that’s a high number for Frederick County.

Committee members think another site suited for consideration is Sunnyside Church and schoolhouse, near Jefferson, Md. The site has yet to be nominated.

Identifying a common theme for sites that would group them together, like black historical churches, would be more successful, Miss Lee said, and reduce the difficulty of nominating each site individually.

Other sites the group identified in the Frederick area include historic black neighborhoods, the county’s first all-black high school and a graveyard known as the Laboring Sons Cemetery. The Monocacy National Battlefield in Urbana, Md., also is a contender.

It’s the stories that make the difference.

Stories like the work of gravestone artisan Sebastian “Boss” Hammond, who created distinctive works to buy his entire family’s freedom from slavery. He, too, was once a slave , but became a thriving freed man. However, he had terrible debts that threatened his survival by the time he died.

His work still can be seen at a cemetery in Urbana.

These stories matter not just for the historic register of places but also for citizens who haven’t heard of them and need to remember the history and meaning of people’s lives and actions.

“It’s important to tell the history [of our area],” said David Key, a member of African American Resources-Cultural and Heritage, who added, “good or bad, because we become better people.”

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