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Introduction

In the early nineteenth century, Baltimore was a refuge for free and enslaved Black people. The city was a place where Black people could seek freedom from slavery and self-determination in a Chesapeake region dominated by oppressive white supremacy. By 1831, over ten thousand enslaved people and over seventeen thousand free people of color lived in Baltimore. Over the forty years prior, these men and women had organized to build independent Black churches and open schools for Black children excluded from Baltimore’s segregated public schools. Following Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion in Southhampton, Virginia, however, the reaction of white slaveholders threatened the safety and independence of this growing community. Maryland’s slaveholders panicked, envisioning violent slave insurrections supported by free Black residents. The state legislature swiftly enacted repressive laws placing new strict limits on the rights of free and enslaved Black Marylanders.

Black residents in Baltimore resisted. They pushed back against the state’s colonization movement, which sought to transport free Black Marylanders to west Africa, petitioned Baltimore City to establish public schools for Black students, and protested the exclusion and discrimination experienced by Black workers. Both before and after the Supreme Court’s notorious 1854 Dred Scott decision, Black Baltimoreans risked their own lives and freedom to help enslaved people leaving Baltimore and Maryland along the underground railroad.

The onset of the Civil War in 1861 marked a new beginning for Black Baltimoreans seeking greater freedom for themselves and their neighbors. Hundreds of free Black people in Baltimore supported the Union army by working on fortifications and over eight thousand enslaved Marylanders enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops between the spring of 1863 and the end of the war two years later. White Union supporters drafted a new constitution in 1864 that both abolished slavery and disenfranchised Marylanders fighting for the Confederacy or giving “any aid, comfort, countenance, or support” to the southern rebellion. After a narrow vote in October 1864, the new constitution brought slavery in Maryland to an end. The adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1867 and the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870 gave all Black Marylanders the right to equal protection under the law and gave Black men the right to vote.

These new legal rights empowered an emerging community of Black activists—a group that included religious leaders, labor organizers, and many Union army veterans who settled in Baltimore after the end of the war. Black congregations, Republican political clubs, fraternal and mutual aid organizations, and the Colored Convention movement structured the growing community of men and women fighting for more equitable treatment of Baltimore’s Black residents. Some focused on the religious and educational “uplift” of the newly freed people arriving in Baltimore after the end of the Civil War. Aspiring Black teachers could enroll for training at the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of Colored People, established on Courtland Street near Saratoga Street in 1865, or at the Centenary Biblical Institute, established at Sharp Street Church in 1867.1 Increasing access to education also created new demands for access to public employment. In the 1870s and 1880s, Black educators, religious leaders, and other supporters pushed Baltimore City to begin hiring Black teachers for the city’s segregated colored schools.

Even the moderate proponents of “uplift,” however, found little support from the state’s reactionary white leaders. After the Civil War, white political leaders in Baltimore and across the state, including many who had supported or fought for the Confederacy, stoked racist fears and anxieties to undermine the rising political power of their Black neighbors. Another new constitution in 1867 restored provisions that based legislative representation based on the combined Black and white population enabling Democratic Party legislators to dominate the Maryland General Assembly. Through speeches and publications, they presented nascent civil rights activism in Baltimore as an impossible and dangerous drive to win “social equality” for an “inferior” race. White leaders used racist ideas to justify police violence and inequality in criminal justice—topics that emerged as major concerns for Black Baltimoreans in the 1860s and 1870s. When Black religious leaders and Republican party activists pushed for political equality, white leaders pushed back by manipulating primary elections, excluding Black voters from the polls, and redrawing local districts to diminish their influence on elections.

The fifty year period between the early 1830s and mid 1880s saw the early foundation of what developed in Baltimore’s long civil rights movement. Varied social movements, including both white and Black participants, sought to secure freedom, provide mutual support, and encourage self-determination for Black Baltimoreans. At the same time, the development and spread of racist ideas before and after the Civil War laid the cultural and political foundation for segregation and disenfranchisement in the late nineteenth century. Moreover, these racist ideas even shaped the work of Black educators, religious leaders, and activists—many of whom adopted an assimilationist approach that sought to “uplift” Black Baltimoreans to the assumed superior state of white Baltimoreans. Only a few directly confronted the discrimination driving racial inequality.

This context begins by describing Black community life in early nineteenth century Baltimore and how new restrictions after 1831 turned the city from a place of refuge into a place of repression in the decades before the Civil War. The organized and determined Black resistance to the colonization movement stands out as a key example of the emerging politics of the Black community. Next, the context considers how Black Baltimoreans used varied ways of seeking and finding freedom before the Civil War—including abolition, manumission, and escape. Finally, the last section considers how, after the Civil War, Black people sought to use their new constitutional rights to overcome entrenched white opposition and improve conditions for the city’s growing Black population.

Black life in Baltimore before the Civil War

Baltimore grew quickly in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Between 1790 and 1820, the city nearly doubled in population and then doubled again by 1840. The city’s growth depended on enslaved and free Black workers: men and women who built and repaired ships in Fell’s Point, dug clay for bricks from pits in south Baltimore, and swept streets in the Western Precincts around today’s Lexington Market. In the early 1800s, free Black people outnumbered enslaved people making it the only place in the state where most Black people were free.2 In the 1820s and 1830s, Black residents were about one quarter of the city’s residents.

Black activists in the period included George Alexander Hackett who was born free in 1806 and, as a life-long member of Bethel A.M.E. Church, became a prominent activist in the 1840s and 1850s.3 Black caulker and labor organizer Isaac Myers was born free in 1835 and, as a child, attended a day school run by Reverend John Fortie.4

Initially, the city’s Black population concentrated around the harbor and Fell’s Point—close to work in the region’s booming maritime economy. In 1810, almost half of Baltimore’s free Black residents lived near the center of the city. But, by 1830, less than ten percent resided in that area. Historian Christopher Phillips described how Black people in Baltimore moved out to the city’s Western Precincts where they found “cheap tenement housing.” While not wholly segregated from the city’s white population, most free Black residents lived among the “maze of alleyways and court-yards” where “black family dwellings interspersed with those of laboring and poor whites.”5

The growing population of free people of color in Baltimore was driven, in part, by the broader growth in the state’s free Black population. Since the late eighteenth century, changing agricultural practices around the state and declining profits for tobacco farms led to an increasing use of manumission to free thousands of enslaved people.6 After 1810, the total number of enslaved people in Maryland began a long decline. The proportion of free people grew from twenty-seven percent of the state’s Black population in 1820 to over forty percent in 1840.

By 1830, over one-third of the state’s free people lived in Baltimore where they could find work and educational opportunities unavailable elsewhere in Maryland. New arrivals joined the existing community of Black churches and social groups and helped them grow in both size and importance.7 Baltimore offered free and enslaved men and women the opportunity to earn wages that often went to purchasing their own freedom or the freedom of family members. Historian Seth Rockman explained, “When slaves gained some control over the wages they earned, freedom was typically not far behind.”8 For example, Noah Davis, pastor of Saratoga Street Baptist Church, and his wife were both born into slavery in Virginia in the early 1800s. Davis came to Baltimore as a Baptist missionary in 1847 where he raised enough money to purchase his own freedom and then, in 1851, purchased his wife’s freedom and brought her to Baltimore.9

“The Saratoga Street African Baptist Church” from A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man (1859). Courtesy New York Public Library, 1229203
“The Saratoga Street African Baptist Church” from A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man (1859). Courtesy New York Public Library, 1229203

Enslaved people in Baltimore faced the same threats of brutal violence and family separation experienced by other enslaved Marylanders. At the same time, however, the large population of free people of color in Baltimore and the varied opportunities for Black workers gave many enslaved people a chance at a better life. Frederick Douglass later recalled the “marked difference” in the 1820s between his experience with slavery in southeast Baltimore and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore writing:

A city slave is almost a freeman, compared with a slave on the plantation. He is much better fed and clothed, and enjoys privileges altogether unknown to the slave on the plantation.10

In the early nineteenth century, Baltimore’s residents included a small number of white abolitionists. For example, Benjamin Lundy helped establish the Maryland Anti-Slavery Society in 1825 and, in 1829, William Lloyd Garrison joined Lundy in publishing his abolitionist newspaper The Genius of Universal Emancipation.11 While Quakers stood out among white Marylanders for their opposition to slavery in the nineteenth century, other white Christians supported Black co-religionists in some circumstances. For example, the previously mentioned Noah Davis raised the money to purchase his freedom and that of his family with help from white Baptists in the 1840s.12

However, any privileges enjoyed by free and enslaved Black Baltimoreans over other Black Marylanders remained limited. In 1827, pro-slavery candidates swept local and national elections making slavery the cornerstone of the national Democratic Party.13 White artisans excluded free Black workers from craft apprenticeships and employers relegated Black workers to the most difficult, dangerous, and lowest-paying jobs in the city.14 Free Black men and women living in Maryland could not vote and could not testify in a criminal trial or freedom suit.15 Baltimore’s public schools first opened in 1826 but Black children could not attend public school even as their parents paid taxes that went to towards their construction and operation.16

Making a “place of repression” after Nat Turner’s Rebellion: 1830s–1850s

The early 1830s marked a critical turning point in the earliest history of the civil rights movement in Baltimore. Following Nat Turner’s rebellion in Southampton, Virginia, in August 1831, Maryland slaveholders panicked over reported rumors in the Niles’ Weekly Register and the Baltimore American of impending revolts in Maryland reflecting what historian Sarah Katz described as “the frenzied fear among whites that the nation’s slaves were prepared to rise up in a violent bid for freedom.”17.

Responding to slaveholder concerns over insurrection, the Maryland state legislature established a committee led by Henry Brawner, a slaveholder from Charles County in southern Maryland, that developed a proposal to expand funding for colonization, restrict manumissions, and undermine the rights of free Black Marylanders.18 In May 1832, the legislature approved the committee’s proposal that included prohibiting free Blacks from moving to Maryland from another state or return to Maryland after taking a job elsewhere. Free Black Marylanders were no longer allowed to own firearms without a certificate from county officials or to buy alcohol, powder, and shot. African Americans could no longer hold religious meetings unless a white minister was present (although the legislature excepted congregations in Baltimore City from this provision).19 By end of the 1830s, Maryland had enacted laws to re-enslave free Black people by allowing a court to sentence them to a term of servitude for debts, “vagrancy,” or certain criminal convictions.20

As the state’s focus on repressing free Black residents continued into the 1840s and 1850s, historian Christopher Phillips has described Baltimore’s transformation from “a place of refuge to one of repression.” Many Black Baltimoreans left Maryland for a free northern state or Black communities in Canada and the city’s Black population remained largely flat between 1840 and 1860.21

Building independent Black congregations and institutions: 1830s–1850s

In the face of the threat of racist restrictions on Black life in Baltimore and Maryland, local Black abolitionists, church leaders, and activists led efforts to stand up to colonization and protect the rights of free Black Baltimoreans. Writer, educator, and minister, William S. Watkins (c. 1803 – c. 1858) likely spoke for many of his neighbors when he called for Black people to “die in Maryland under the pressure of unrighteous and cruel laws” rather than be “driven, like cattle” to Liberia.22

Black resistance was organized largely through churches. Historian Stephen Whitman has argued:

The creation and maintenance of African American institutions, and slaves’ claims to respect as fellow Christians, in the face of intensifying white hostility to such enterprises, constituted a visible and sometimes successful challenge to the ideology of black inferiority and pointed to the possibility of a stable multi-racial society, proslavery and colonizationist claims to the contrary.23

The opportunity for free and enslaved Black Baltimoreans to build a shared community around institutions made Maryland distinct from neighboring Virginia where an 1806 manumission law required newly freed African Americans to leave the state after manumission.24 Historian Christopher Phillips similarly highlighted the importance of institution building between 1790 and 1860:

Rather than overt organized opposition, Baltimore’s free blacks sought to strengthen their social institutions, by which to provide by example—both to themselves and to whites—that they were worthy of equal treatment.25

It is important to note, however, that the idea of improving the “worthiness” or moral rectitude of free (or enslaved) Black Baltimoreans often implicitly or explicitly rested on racist beliefs in Black inferiority. Daniel Payne, pastor at Bethel A.M.E. from 1845 to 1849 is an example of these contradictions. Payne raised a five thousand dollar building fund in 1846, laid down a cornerstone for a sixteen thousand dollar Romanesque building on Saratoga Street in 1847, and finished construction the next year. Historian Lawrence H. Mamiya observes:

Although Payne can be viewed as an accommodationist, he and other church leaders in the mid-nineteenth century faced the enormous task of providing uplift for the masses of the still enslaved and the newly freed black people, most of whom were illiterate and still hampered by the segregation of schools and the prohibition against teaching slaves.26

Baltimore’s Black religious and community leaders relied on more than just local support and expertise. Their activism built on relationships with individuals and organizations across the state and nation—abolitionist organizations, Black churches, fraternal groups, and the Convention Movement—drawing people together around shared interest in justice and equality. For example, in 1830, Hezekiah Grice (b. 1801), a Baltimore butcher, began appealing to Black leaders in the north to hold a national meeting leading to the founding the American Society of Free Persons of Color, the sponsoring organization for the black national convention movement between 1830 and 1835.27

By 1835, divisions over whether the movement should focus on political or moral issues split the organization, leading Baltimore writer and minister William Watkins to join in the formation of the American Moral Reform Society. The new organization followed efforts by Black activists in the 1820s and 1830s to promote the formation of temperance societies.28 The focus on alcohol or other moral issues reflected a broader pursuit of “uplift,” what Stephen Whitman has described as “a comprehensive effort to improve individual and community morality, to attain respectability, and thus to testify against slavery and race prejudice.”29 Although William Watkins left Baltimore for Toronto in Canada after the passage of the 1851 Fugitive Slave Act, organizing efforts among Black religious leaders and congregants continued to build in strength.

Baltimore’s Black churches were not only the site of religious worship by congregants but many other forms of mutual support with a major focus on providing education for children and adults and using the church as a platform for political action.30 Sharp Street Church, established in 1787, occupied a building near Pratt Street (where the Baltimore Convention Center is located today).31 In 1815, a group of Black Methodists established the African Methodist Bethel Church Society (now Bethel A.M.E. Church) and bought a building on Saratoga Street near Gay Street from a white abolitionist named John Carman.32 Churches were a common site of civic and community meeting. For example, George Hackett and the members of the Moral Mental Improvement Society, “considered one of the city’s leading literary and debating societies” met at Bethel A.M.E. Church on the first Sunday of every month.33 Benevolent and temperance societies active in the 1830s reportedly included as many as fifteen hundred members. Baltimore’s Black literary societies included the “Young Men’s Mental Improvement Society for the Discussion of Moral and Philosophical Questions of all Kinds” and the “Phoenix Society.”34

Name Key dates Extant Building Extant Congregation
Sharp Street Church 1787 N Y
Bethel A.M.E. Church c. 1817 N Y
St. James Episcopal Church 1824 N Y
Oblate Sisters of Providence 1828 N Y
Orchard Street Church erected 1882; prior structures erected 1837 and 1859 Y Y
Union Baptist Church erected 1852 N Y
Ebenezer A.M.E. Church 1839 site purchased; church erected 1865 Y Y
John Wesley Chapel on Hughes Street 1838 site occupied; church erected c. 1860s-1880s Y Y

The city’s growing Black population in the mid nineteenth century supported the growth of both existing Black churches and the foundation of new churches and religious organizations. Black churches also became an important site of struggle against repressive white religious institutions. White resistance to Black control of Black congregations was a source of conflict for a number of churches. Historian J. Gordon Melton observed the frustrations that Sharp Street Church experienced in this period as they sought to secure independent Black leadership:

Through the 1820s, both Sharp Street and Asbury remained as the African churches attached to the one Baltimore charge. Then in 1830, one of the three Baltimore ministers, Joseph Frey, was given the specific charge of serving the two Black congregations. Two years later, the two churches were set aside as the “African Methodist Episcopal Church in the City of Baltimore” and incorporated as a single entity. The members of Sharp Street reacted to these events by annually petitioning the Baltimore conference to assign a Black preacher as the minister in charge. Their petition was annually tabled. Eventually, in reaction to the failure of their annual petitions, beginning in 1848 (at the first MEC general conference after the Southern conferences had departed), Black Methodists from Sharp Street and other Black congregations began to lobby for the organization of an all-Black Conference to include the churches in the care of the Baltimore Conference.35

The Presentation, of a gold snuff box to the Rev. R.T. Breckenridge, Bethel A.M.E. Church, 1845. Courtesy Library of Congress.
The Presentation, of a gold snuff box to the Rev. R.T. Breckenridge, Bethel A.M.E. Church, 1845. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Not all Black religious groups sought to directly challenge established white authority. One example of this is the Oblate Sisters, a Catholic religious order in Baltimore, first established in 1828 by Mother Mary Lange and Marie Magdaleine Balas. Historian Diane Batts Morrow observes, “did not directly protest their marginal social status” and “functioned within the parameters of racial discrimination sanctioned by the church.”36 The Oblate Sisters had formed on June 13, 1828 and opened a School for Colored Girls with eleven boarding students and five day students gathering in a rented residence at 5 St. Mary’s Court. The building also served as the convent for the sisters as they made the education of children of color their own defining mission.37 By July 2, 1829, the group moved to a second rented residence at 610 George Street. Even as they worked to educate Black children, the Sisters accepted discriminatory policies imposed by white Catholic Church leadership although not without frustration. Such policies included burial in a racially segregated cemetery and segregated seating in chapel pews (implemented in 1837 after the Sisters “evidently agonized” over the decision to accept the rule imposed by white church leaders). Morrow describes the difficult balance the group maintained as:

The Oblate Sisters acceded to socially sanctioned racial discrimination. But they resisted real and potential threats to their status as women religious.38

Operating schools for Black students was a major area of focus for Black religious communities and, in some cases, sympathetic white allies. In 1797, the Maryland Society for the Abolition of Slavery, a Quaker abolitionist group, opened the Baltimore African Academy for the children of free Black parents. In 1807, Daniel Coker founded the Bethel Charity School. One student, William Watkins, succeeded Coker as the school’s teacher after the former’s emigration to Liberia in 1820. In 1826, the Maryland General Assembly authorized the creation of the Baltimore City school system for white children under the age of ten and the first school, known as Public School No. 1, opened on September 21, 1829. Public Schools No. 2 and No. 3 (also for whites only) opened soon after and by the end of the year, enrolled two hundred and sixty-nine students. African Americans recognized the injustice of being forced to pay school taxes that supported white only schools, and Black leaders in Baltimore petitioned the city government to provide either tax relief or schools for Black children. These petitions were presented in 1839, 1844, and 1850 (which included signatures from ninety Black and one hundred and twenty-six white Baltimore residents). Despite the interracial support, the mayor and Baltimore City Council rejected every one of these petitions.39 In 1859, Noah Davis, pastor at Saratoga Street Baptist Church, observed:

The large colored population of Baltimore, now from thirty to forty thousand souls, have no sort of Public School provision made for them, by the city or state governments. They are left entirely to themselves for any education they may obtain.40

By the late 1850s, Baltimore had fifteen Black Protestant congregations with over six thousand members. Church Sunday schools had nearly three thousand people in regular attendance.41 Baltimore’s Black leaders hosted regional and national meetings including the first regional conference for Black Methodists at Sharp Street Church (1846), the Maryland State Convention of Free Colored People (1852), the State Colored Convention of Maryland (1862), and the Colored Men’s Border State Convention (1868). Through the Colored Conventions Project, Dr. Gabrielle Foreman has highlighted the importance of Black activism in this period, explaining how convention speakers called for “community-based action that gathered funds, established schools and literary societies, and urged the necessity of hard work in what would become a decades-long campaign for civil and human rights.”42

Resistance to the colonization movement in Maryland: 1830s-1863

Supporters of the colonization movement in Maryland first established a statewide organization in 1827 when a group of loosely organized regional and county societies united. The Maryland General Assembly awarded the new group an annual grant of one thousand dollars to transport free Black Marylanders to the American Colonization Society’s settlement in Liberia. When the group sent only twelve emigrants to Liberia in 1828, the state soon terminated its appropriation the following year. Support for colonization was renewed following Nat Turner’s Rebellion in August 1831 leading the state to reinstate more funding with an appropriation of ten thousand dollars a year for twenty years to resettle free Black Marylanders in west Africa.43

One of several racist resolutions approved at the 1841 convention of the Maryland State Colonization Society highlight the prejudice that drove the colonization movement:

…the idea that the colored people will ever obtain social and political equality in this State is wild and mischievous; and by creating among them hopes that can never be realized, is at war with their happiness and improvement.44

Black Marylanders reacted strongly to the state’s efforts to expel them. Historian Christopher Phillips recounts African American resistance to the efforts by the Maryland Colonization Society to encourage free blacks to migrate from Maryland to Liberia, noting:

The pervasively hostile sentiment against colonization throughout the period and the equally persuasive demeanor of the Baltimore junto forced the Maryland Colonization Society to abandon recruitment effort on the state’s Western Shore. Of the emigrants sponsored by the Maryland State Colonization Society between 1832 and 1841, only fifty (less than 8 percent) were from Baltimore.45

Maryland in Liberia, 1853. Courtesy New York Public Library, 1261070.
Maryland in Liberia, 1853. Courtesy New York Public Library, 1261070.

Black activism helped to ensure the failure of the Colonization Movement as an effort to remove manumitted slaves from Maryland. In a twenty year period, from 1831 to 1851, only 1,025 emigrants were sent to Liberia while the number of recorded manumissions during the same period was 5,571. The latter figure likely understates the total number of enslaved people freed in that period as not all slave owners filed manumission documents.46

Not all black Baltimoreans opposed colonization. Most famously, Daniel Coker, the founding pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church, emigrated to Liberia in 1820. But even those differences helped shape a distinct local Black identity. Christopher Phillips writes:

[The] conflict over colonization offered black Baltimoreans the opportunity to further the evolution of their own community as distinct and autonomous… Whether for or against colonization, Baltimore’s black community unified around a principle far more compelling; racial progress. Baltimore’s black society became, in the words of one historian of urban African Americans of the antebellum North, a “community of commitment.”47

The representatives of the Maryland Colonization Society heard the opposition from the very outset of their efforts. The membership and leadership of the Maryland Colonization Society included some of the state’s most prominent residents (a number of residences associated with those individuals are still extant in the greater Baltimore region). In 1838, the society’s traveling agent John H. Kennard reported to the board of managers summarizing his understanding of black opposition to colonization:

They are taught to believe, and, do believe, that this is their country, their home. A Country and home, now wickedly withholden from them but which they will presently possess, own and control. Those who Emigrate to Liberia, are held up to the world, as the vilest and veriest traitors to their race, and especially so, towards their brethren in bonds. Every man woman and child who leaves this country for Africa is considered one taken from the strength of the colored population and by his departure, as protracting the time when the black man will by the strength of his own arm compell those who despise and oppress him, to acknowledge his rights, redress his wrongs, and restore the wages, long due and inniquitously withholden.48

Organized Black resistance to colonization helped lay the groundwork for further advocacy efforts in the years after the Civil War. As before, much of this resistance took place in Black churches, such as Sharp Street and Bethel A.M.E. Church, but in the homes of free Black residents and around the city’s wharves and piers. Ultimately, the Maryland State Colonization Society ended active operations in 1863, shortly after the beginning of the Civil War.

Escape from slavery in Baltimore before and during the Civil War

Abolition and manumission in early nineteenth century Baltimore: 1800s–1830s

In the early nineteenth century, slavery in Maryland began to change in significant ways. Importantly, an increasing number of farms stopped cultivating tobacco with enslaved labor. Instead, many farms turned to growing grain and produce, less labor-intensive crops that relied more on the labor of European immigrants than enslaved Black people. Seeing diminishing profits in holding large numbers of enslaved people, rural slaveholders, especially in western and central Maryland, began to manumit, granting legal freedom, to hundreds of people they had held in bondage:

In the state’s northern and western counties, farmers became increasingly dependent upon diversified agriculture, in which slavery played a diminishing role. On the Eastern Shore, soil exhaustion and declining tobacco prices forced farmers to abandon tobacco, manumit their slaves, and cultivate their farms with free Black and white farmhands.49

Many members of the state’s growing free Black community supported the emancipation of their family, friends, and neighbors who continued to be held in slavery—sometimes saving money to purchase the freedom of a family member or assisting a friend in escaping to Pennsylvania, New York, or Canada.

Another factor that contributed to the rising number of manumissions and the growth of abolition in Baltimore was the movement by the Society of Friends (better known as the Quakers) and, to a more limited extent, the Methodist Church, to advocate against the slave trade and slave holding more generally. For example, in 1778, Maryland Quakers “called on one another to free their bondsmen and abjure slaveholding.”50 One notable early opponent of the kidnapping of free people of color in Baltimore was Elisha Tyson (1750-1824) whose opposition to slavery was reportedly recognized when three thousand Black people joined his funeral procession in 1824.51 Tyson’s summer home still stands in the Stone Hill neighborhood. From the late 1700s up through the Civil War, Quaker meeting houses in Baltimore City, and other Quaker settlements in central Maryland, played a critical role in promoting abolitionist sentiment and in providing support for enslaved people to escape on the underground railroad.

Between 1800 and 1860, the proportion of slaveholders among Baltimore City residents declined, the share of Baltimore’s total population held in slavery also declined, and the share of the Black population living in freedom grew. Nearly one-third of city residents held at least one enslaved person in 1800. But by 1850, slaveholders made up close to one percent of the city’s white population. Enslaved people made up 9% of the city’s population in 1790, under 2% in 1850, and barely 1% in 1860. A small minority of the city’s Black population, just 20%, were free in 1790. By 1830, over 75% of the same population was free and over 90% was free in 1860.52

Chart: African Americans in Baltimore City and County, 1820-1860
Chart: African Americans in Baltimore City and County, 1820-1860

Due to the Methodist Church’s support for abolition, enslaved and free Black people in Maryland often either joined or affiliated with it. Outside the city in Baltimore County and other nearby counties, Black Methodist churches became the nucleus of rural communities that were critical to the success of the Underground Railroad. For example, in 1853 a free Black community in Cecil County near Pennsylvania erected the Howard Methodist Episcopal Church in Port Deposit (the building was later demolished in 1981). Other examples of early nineteenth century free black communities in Baltimore County include Glen Arm around the Waugh Church, where services began as early as 1829 (the first chapel constructed in 1849); the community around the Piney Grove Church built in 1850; and the Troyer Road community that formed around the Mount Joy African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Union United Methodist Chapel (both built between 1850 and 1877).53

Despite support of some Methodist churches and Quaker meetings, supportive white abolitionists remained a small minority in the Baltimore area and in Maryland. Historian and Black abolitionist William Still observed the challenges facing enslaved Black people attempting escape through Baltimore in his 1872 book The Underground Railroad:

Baltimore used to be in the days of Slavery one of the most difficult places in the South for even free colored people to get away from, much more slaves. The rule forbade any colored person leaving there by rail road or steamboat, without such applicant had been weighed, measured, and then given a bond signed by unquestionable signatures well known. Baltimore was rigid in the extreme, and was a never-failing source of annoyance, trouble and expense to colored people generally, and not unfrequently to slave-holders too, when they were traveling North with ‘colored servants’ … But, not withstanding all this weighing, measuring and requiring of bonds, many travelers by the Underground Rail Road took passage from Baltimore.54

Natural geography and transportation routes both supported activist efforts to turn Baltimore City into a hub for fugitives headed toward the Susquehanna River and Wilmington, Delaware (where abolitionists like Thomas Garrett waited to assist) or north through Baltimore County.55 Within the city, railroads were one important part of the infrastructure for escape. The Pratt and Charles Street Depot for the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and, after 1850, President Street Station on President Street (and still extant) likely saw hundreds of fugitives pass through on their escape north, including Henry “Box” Brown (who escaped from Virginia in 1849), William and Ellen Craft (who escaped from Georgia in 1848), and, most famously, Frederick Douglass.56 Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore on September 3, 1838 by catching a train to New York City (moving again to New Bedford, Massachusetts soon after).

The significant resistance white and Black abolitionists encountered in Maryland only grew from the 1830s through the 1850s. Historian Sarah Katz described how fear of “slave revolts” following Nat Turner’s rebellion in Southampton, Virginia led to a crack-down on abolitionist organizations.

Exaggerated reports of slave revolt alarmed Baltimore in 1831; so did a fear of abolition societies. Many supporters of slavery thought the antislavery movement encouraged insurrection. … Some Baltimoreans went so far as to accuse abolitionist societies of holding midnight military drills to prepare blacks for insurrection.57

In addition to restrictions on African Americans, the penalties for anyone caught assisting enslaved people in their escape were severe. One notable example was Charles Turner Torrey. In 1842, Torrey organized an Underground Railroad route from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Albany. He moved to Baltimore in late 1843 and, in June 1844, was arrested and confined to the Maryland Penitentiary. Torrey died in prison from tuberculosis on May 9, 1846 and a memoir telling the story of his life and death inspired action from abolitionists throughout the United States and Europe.58

Abolition and the underground railroad after the Fugitive Slave Act: 1850-1861

Earlier paths to emancipation through self-purchase (or purchase by family members) were undermined by slaveholders who fraudulently broke term slavery agreements to maximize their own profit. Ultimately, historian Stephen Whitman writes, “African Americans more and more frequently took the long odds of winning freedom through flight.”59

The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, pushed by Southern slaveholders to stem the flow of enslaved people moving north to freedom, led to expanded efforts by abolitionists to support the underground railroad and growing violence on both sides. Baltimore was no exception. In 1851, Baltimore County slaveholder Edward Gorsuch and several others were wounded seeking to recapture four enslaved men who had escaped to the farm of abolitionist William Parker in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The event became known as the Christiana Riot (also known as the Christiana Resistance) and sparked an even deeper commitment to militant resistance among abolitionists.60

Baltimore and Maryland slaveholders called on the Baltimore police, as well as local police and courts in northern states, to support their efforts to recapture escaped enslaved people. Historian William T. Alexander observed a “remarkable” growth in the “activity and universality of slave hunting” under the new law citing the example of a Baltimore police officer who killed William Smith, an alleged fugitive in Pennsylvania, while attempting an arrest:

The needless brutality with which these seizures were often made tended to intensify the popular repugnance which they occasioned. In repeated instances, the first notice the alleged fugitive had of his peril was given him by a blow on the head, sometimes with a club or stick of wood… In Columbia, Penn., March, 1852, a colored person named William Smith was seized as a fugitive by a Baltimore police officer, while working in a lumber yard, and, attempting to escape the officer drew a pistol and shot him dead.61

Baltimore City Jail, c. 1855-1860. Courtesy Enoch Pratt Free Library, mdcp030.
Baltimore City Jail, c. 1855-1860. Courtesy Enoch Pratt Free Library, mdcp030.

While countless residential buildings associated with slaveholders (and likely resistance by enslaved people) in the Baltimore region are still standing, there are fewer examples of sites associated with the underground railroad and the reaction that movement sparked. The Baltimore Jail, designed by local architects James and Thomas Dixon and completed in 1849, is one of these few extant examples in Baltimore of a site associated with the detention of escaped slaves and abolitionists. Up until 1864, the jail held hundreds of “runaways” along with Marylanders, both white and free black people, who assisted enslaved people as they fled to freedom. The Warden’s House from the original jail complex still stands on East Madison Street though the remainder of the original complex was largely demolished in the 1960s. The Warden’s House was one part of the penal system for slavery in Baltimore that also included a number of private slave jails operated around the Baltimore Harbor (although none of the private slave jails survive).62

Emancipation and the Civil War: 1861-1865

The Civil War brought about radical changes for free and enslaved Black Baltimoreans from the onset of the conflict through the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in neighboring Virginia, and the end of slavery in Maryland in November 1864. From the start of the Civil War in April 1861, free Black workers in Baltimore provided support to Union troops at camps and hospitals around the city. Northern troops at Union camps became potential allies who could offer refuge and assistance for enslaved Marylanders seeking escape. On April 16, 1862, the emancipation of enslaved people in Washington, D.C. created new opportunities for enslaved blacks to escape from bondage, especially in the Maryland counties adjoining the District. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring the end of slavery and the abolition of enslaved people in all Confederate states including neighboring Virginia. Despite the state’s large enslaved population, Maryland’s official support for the Union exempted the state from the new law. But Black Baltimoreans helped to ensure the end of slavery by pouring even more effort in supporting the escape of enslaved people. Historian Lawrence Mamiya describes how George A. Hackett, a local business owner and member of Bethel A.M.E. Church, would frequently “hire a wagon, go on a plantation, fill it with slaves, and with a six-barreled revolver in each hand, defy the master to prevent it.”63 At the same time, a Congressional bill to provide “compensated emancipation” in Maryland failed in 1863 and a similar bill failed before the state assembly.64 By the spring of 1863, the Union Army began to recruit free and enslaved Black Marylanders for enlistment in the U.S. Colored Troops. The Union army ultimately enlisted over 8,700 Black men in six Maryland regiments.65

Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-1865. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-1865. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The Civil War also sparked other changes in the organization of Black churches and institutions. For example, in 1864, the Methodist General Conference began accepting petitions by African American congregations to form Annual conferences beginning with the Delaware and Washington Conferences and then expanding to include congregations across the country.66

In November 1864 Maryland passed a new state constitution abolishing slavery. The new constitution also disenfranchised white Marylanders who had left the state to fight for or live in the Confederacy and men who had supported the Confederacy within the state. Under this arrangement, the Maryland legislature approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery nationwide on February 3, 1865.67

However, with the restoration of voting rights for many Confederate sympathizers and veterans after the end of the Civil War in 1865, the state legislature voted against the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing the rights of citizens and other persons) on March 23, 1867. That same year, former slaveholders also attempted to roll back the emancipation of the state’s formerly enslaved people using a regressive “apprenticeship” law but the U.S. Supreme Court issued the decision In Re Turner overturned the law.68 Three years later, the state rejected the Fifteenth Amendment, protecting a citizen’s right to vote from restrictions based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” on February 26, 1870.69

Protecting freedom after the Civil War

After the Civil War, thousands of formerly enslaved Black people moved from rural counties in Maryland and Virginia to Baltimore to seek work and protection from white violence. After decades of slower growth before the Civil War, Baltimore’s Black population grew quickly between 1870 and 1900—from 39,558 in 1870 to 53,716 in 1880 to 79,739 in 1900.70 In Baltimore City, Black men could vote in local and federal elections for the first time since the state legislature stripped the right to vote from free people of color in 1810.

“Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore… an every day scene”, 1865. Courtesy Library of Congress.
“Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore… an every day scene”, 1865. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Historian Richard Paul Fuke describes the dangerous violence by white neighbors that threatened rural Black communities, including an attack on Black worshippers a Methodist camp meeting in Anne Arundel County in August 1866 and a large fight disrupting an educational meeting (sponsored by the Freedmen’s Bureau of the Baltimore Association) in Queen Anne’s County on August 1, 1877. Fuke highlights the special vulnerability of “uniformed and armed blacks returning to rural Maryland” after service in the U.S. Colored Troops to attacks by groups of former Confederate soldiers.71

A few areas of Black residential and commercial life in Baltimore developed into distinct areas including around Courtland Street near downtown, Orchard Street in West Baltimore, and Hughes Street in South Baltimore. These areas had more than just churches as important spaces for Black mutual support and public life. New institutions some secular and some religious were established in adapted or purpose-built structures. The aforementioned abolitionist and Bethel A.M.E. Church member, George Hackett was involved with founding the Douglass Institute (1865) and the Gregory Aged Women’s Home (1867). Ann Prout, a Sunday school teacher and congregant at Bethel A.M.E., became president of the association in charge of the home.72

Many of the new migrants struggled to find housing in the immediate post-Civil War period, as Fuke noted:

Within a month of emancipation, the Friends Association reported “many calls from women with children… who have neither food not shelter.” “We find more suffering than we are able to alleviate,” it added in January 1865, “They [are in] want of the most necessary food and clothing, and have crowded into alleys and callers.”73

Neighborhoods largely populated by Black residents grew around the harbor. Hundreds of dwellings in the Fell’s Point, Federal Hill, and Mount Vernon National Register Historic Districts were at one point occupied by free and enslaved Black people before and after the Civil War. Notable among these neighborhoods is the Sharp Leadenhall local historic district, a small area of a larger South Baltimore Black community that has been substantially displaced by industrial urban renewal projects and highway construction in the mid twentieth century.

Politics after the Fifteenth Amendment: 1870s–1880s

The ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870 added thirty-nine thousand new Black voters to the total of one hundred and thirty-one white voters registered in the state of Maryland. This change set the stage for decades of struggle within and between the Democratic and Republican parties, and encouraged the development of a new political freedom movement that sought to influence the positions of white candidates and run Black residents for local and statewide elected office. But, despite overwhelming Black support for Republican candidates, the Democratic Party won the Maryland Governor’s office in every election from 1866 to 1896. Similarly, the Mayor of Baltimore remained in the grip of the Democratic Party (or a related party) from Mayor Robert T. Banks (the first elected under the new State Constitution adopted in 1867) up until the election of Republican Alcaeus Hooper in 1895.

The Fifteenth Amendment. Celebrated May 19th, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.
The Fifteenth Amendment. Celebrated May 19th, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The Democratic Party’s firm political control on Baltimore and Maryland reflected the same national trends that led to the withdrawal of Union troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction. The NHL Civil Rights Framework notes how, little more than fifteen years after the end of the Civil War, “the concept of equal rights collapsed in the wake of legislative and judicial actions,” continuing:

The Republican and Democratic parties sacrificed civil rights in exchange for white southern votes. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court found the statutory guarantee of equal enjoyment of public accommodations unconstitutional on the grounds that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment only applied to state activities and did not permit federal control of individual actions. This decision greatly limited the rights of blacks and strengthened Jim Crow laws in the South.74

The failure of the Republican Party to support the interests of black Baltimoreans led many to begin organizing new independent organizations. In February 1880 , for example, a convention of “colored delegates from each ward of the city” met at the Douglass Institute on Lexington Street to organize a new “Equal-Rights League.” The meeting attendees heard speeches from Rev. John A. Handy, James Taylor, N.C.M. Groome, Isaac Myers, and Jeremiah Haralson. Myers observed how in Maryland:

Colored men cannot sit upon juries, colored children cannot be taught in the public schools by teachers of their own race, and colored people cannot get accommodations in hotels nor be admitted to practice as lawyers in State courts. By units of action the colored people will secure these rights and privileges.75

Harrison, a former Congressman from Alabama, spoke to Black Baltimoreans about violent takeover of local and state governments in many Southern states. Harrison himself was forced by an armed mob to flee Alabama in 1878, and suggested that the “colored people in Maryland are free compared with their race in Alabama and the far South, where they are now fleeing from ‘a second slavery that is more damnable than the first.’” The discussion continued past midnight before the meeting concluded with a resolution:

They set forth that neither the republican nor democratic parties in this State accord equal rights to the colored man, and the organization is promoted to secure him his rights and the respect to which he is entitled as a citizen.76

Black Marylanders approached the end of the nineteenth century with a clear picture of the threats they faced and a deep commitment to continue fighting for change.

Equal protection after the Fourteenth Amendment: 1860s–1880s

In Baltimore, new federal civil rights laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, provided a new foundation for Black residents and visitors to make legal and social demands for equal access and opportunity. In one significant example from February 1871, John W. Fields, a black barber visiting Baltimore from Virginia, was ejected from a Baltimore streetcar. Fields sued and won a judgement against the trolley company, a decision that forced the integration of municipal transit in Baltimore.77

In 1880, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Strauder v. West Virginia overturned Maryland’s prohibition on black jurors. Black leadership played an important role in enabling further activism, as African Americans in Baltimore could legally hire black lawyers beginning in 1885, the date that Everett J. Waring was admitted to practice law in Baltimore.

Equal treatment in areas of employment and criminal injustice were similarly hard fought in the 1860s and 1870s. Discrimination against Black workers had been on the rise even before the Civil War. Historian Douglas Bristol noted how, in the 1850s, white men crowded out Black barbers in Baltimore:

The last decade before the Civil War transformed barbering in the United States, as the number of white men in the trade surpassed the number of black men… In Baltimore, white men achieved a razor-thin majority within the trade at the end of the 1850s, and the number of black barbers shrank.78

Violent attacks by white workers and racialized labor strikes were another tool that white workers used to exclude or discriminate against Black workers. In 1865, white caulkers went on strike to exclude black caulkers from the shipyards. When the strikers won, Isaac Myers, George Hackett, William F. Taylor, John W. Locks, and Causemen Gaines, all laymen at Bethel A.M.E. Church, organized the cooperative Chesapeake and Marine Railway and Drydock Company in February 1866. This black-owned business eventually employed 300 skilled black workers. Isaac Myers went on to organize the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society in 1868, and in 1869 after white workers excluded black workers from the new National Labor Union, organized the Colored National Labor Union. The Chesapeake and Marine Railway and Drydock Company lasted until 1884 and is memorialized today at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park.79

In the struggle for equal protection, police violence remained a source of significant concern for Black households after the Civil War. Fuke noted the “fatal police shooting of Eliza Taylor, a black woman, in September 1867,” quoting the Baltimore American:

A colored woman was killed under circumstances which show the spirit of hate and oppression cherished toward that portion of the population by many of the police.80

The police officer involved in the shooting was acquitted of murder prompting criticism from a convention of black leaders in Baltimore, as the Baltimore American reported:

The President [George A. Hackett] stated the object of the meeting, quoting the Declaration of Independence in proof of the fact that the colored people have no friends in Baltimore in the Governor or the police, and cited the action of the Grand Jury in discharging the Policeman Frey, charged with the murder of the colored woman, Eliza Taylor, as a specimen of the justice which is meted out to colored people in this city.81

Despite such resistance, the conditions of unequal treatment continued to get worse in Maryland and throughout the country. In 1884, the Maryland Legislature reaffirmed its opposition to interracial marriage. At the national level, effort to disenfranchise black voters won support from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in The Civil Rights Cases (1883) which ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional and the defeat of the Lodge Force Bill (thanks to the efforts of Maryland Senator and Bourbon Democrat Arthur Pue Gorman).

Opening schools for Black Baltimoreans: 1860s–1880s

The beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and emancipation in Maryland in 1864 transformed the landscape of black education in Baltimore. In 1864, a group of thirty white businessmen, lawyers and ministers (mostly Quakers) formed the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of Colored People with the goal of establishing a black public school system. Within a year, the group had established seven schools in Baltimore with 3,000 students enrolled. At its peak in 1867, the group had set up more than 100 schools in the city and on the Eastern Shore.82

In 1865, the Baltimore Normal School was founded to begin training black teachers. Across the state of Maryland, the Freedmen’s Bureau was critical in supporting the growth of Black schools and efforts to end the post-Civil War practice of re-enslaving Black children through forced apprenticeships. The Bureau’s Maryland headquarters located in a building at 12 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore owned by Senator Reverdy Johnson.83 Historian W.A. Low described how the Bureau helped force the state government to recognize the end of slavery opening a way, “for the attainment of rights, privileges, and responsibilities that go along with the acquisition of freedom.”84

As the African American population in Baltimore grew so too did the needs of Black students. Immediately after the end of the Civil War, Black Baltimoreans and their allies focused on the need to establish schools for Black students and to create opportunities for Black educators. In 1865, the Friends’ Association opened an elementary school in the “African Baptist Church” at the corner of Calvert and Saratoga Streets.85 The Centenary Bible Institute, started at Sharp Street Church, and then began holding classes at 44 East Saratoga Street in 1872. The Institute, which developed into today’s Morgan State University, graduated its first student in 1878: John H. Griffin. Crowded conditions soon forced the Institute to relocate and, in 1881, the school moved to the corner of Edmondson and Fulton Avenues in West Baltimore.86

After Baltimore City took over black schools established by Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People in 1865, the school board moved to fire Black teachers and, by 1875 the city’s segregated Black schools employed no Black educators. Local congregations held “indignation meetings” between December 5 and December 8, 1879 to protest the ongoing issue and, again on January 6, 1881, to protest the school board’s refusal to honor their own pledge to hire Black teachers by the first of the year.87 Persistent demands by Baltimore’s Black residents before Baltimore City school officials finally led to the creation of the Colored High School in 1882 at Holliday and Lexington Streets.88 Protests over the exclusion of Black teachers continued up until Roberta Sheridan was hired to teach at Waverly Colored Public School in Fall 1888.


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Lovejoy, Joseph C. (Joseph Cammet). Memoir of Rev. Charles T. Torrey Who Died in the Penitentiary of Maryland, Where He Was Confined for Showing Mercy to the Poor. Boston: J.P. Jewett & Co., 1847.

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  1. Fuke, “The Baltimore Association for the Moral and Education Improvement of the Colored People, 1864-1870.”; Wilson, The History of Morgan State College; The Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of Colored People reorganized as a normal school for training Black teachers in 1893 and came under state control in 1908. In 1914, the school was renamed the Maryland Normal and Industrial School at Bowie and, since 1988, has operated as Bowie State University. The Centenary Biblical Institute was renamed Morgan College in 1890, became a state institute in 1939, and is now known as Morgan State University.

  2. Rockman, Scraping By, 34.

  3. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 239–40.

  4. Heung, “Myers, Isaac (1835-1891) | the Black Past”; Thomas, “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884.”

  5. Phillips, Freedom’s Port, 104–5.

  6. Maryland State Archives and University of Maryland, College Park, “A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland,” 10.

  7. Ibid., 10.

  8. Rockman, Scraping By, 65.

  9. Davis, A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man, 31–41.

  10. Douglass and Garrison, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, 34.

  11. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 115-120; Lundy had established his newspaper in January 1821 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio after purchasing The Emancipator from Elihu Embree.

  12. Davis, A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man, 31–41.

  13. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 120.

  14. Whitman, The Price of Freedom, 164.

  15. Maryland State Archives and University of Maryland, College Park, “A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland,” 10.

  16. Baum, Brown in Baltimore, 25.

  17. Katz, “Rumors of Rebellion,” 329.

  18. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 128.

  19. “An Act Relating to Free Negroes and Slaves.”; “An Act Regulating the Admission of Attorneys to Practice Law in the Several Courts of This State.” restricted the right to become a lawyer in Maryland to white men; Brackett, The Negro in Maryland, 236–38.

  20. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 128; Phillips, Freedom’s Port, 191–95.

  21. Phillips, “"Negroes and Other Slaves",” 342.

  22. Ripley, The Black Abolitionist Papers, 2:234.

  23. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 135.

  24. Ibid., 103.

  25. Phillips, “"Negroes and Other Slaves",” 7.

  26. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 230.

  27. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 143.

  28. “William Watkins (B. Circa 1803 - d. Circa 1858), MSA SC 5496-002535”; Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 144.

  29. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 150.

  30. Woodson, The History of the Negro Church.

  31. Melton, “African American Methodism in the M. E. Tradition.”

  32. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 230.

  33. Ibid., 240.

  34. Porter, “The Organized Educational Activities of Negro Literary Societies, 1828-1846,” 573.

  35. Melton, “African American Methodism in the M. E. Tradition,” 18.

  36. Morrow, Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time, 139; Morrow, “The Oblate Sisters of Providence.”

  37. Morrow, Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time, 16.

  38. Ibid., 139.

  39. Baum, Brown in Baltimore, 25–26; Gardner, “Ante-Bellum Black Education in Baltimore.”

  40. Davis, A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis, a Colored Man; Moss, “Education’s Enclave.”

  41. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 148.

  42. Foreman and Colored Conventions Project Team, “Colored Conventions.”

  43. “An Act Relating to the People of Color in This State.”; Maryland State Archives, “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview,” 1.

  44. Sun, “Maryland State Colonization Convention.”

  45. Phillips, Freedom’s Port, 226.

  46. Maryland State Archives, “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview,” 3.

  47. Phillips, Freedom’s Port, 226.

  48. Maryland State Archives, “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview,” 3–4.

  49. Maryland State Archives and University of Maryland, College Park, “A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland,” 12.

  50. Brugger, Maryland, A Middle Temperament, 167.

  51. Tyson and Citizen of Baltimore, Life of Elisha Tyson, the Philanthropist.

  52. Phillips, Freedom’s Port, 16–26.

  53. E.H.T. Traceries, “African American Historic Survey Districts - Baltimore County.”

  54. Still, The Underground Rail Road, 136.

  55. Maryland State Archives, “Flight to Freedom.”

  56. Maryland Public Television, “Pathways to Freedom | Underground Railroad Library | Museums and Historical Sites.”

  57. Katz, “Rumors of Rebellion,” 330–31.

  58. Lovejoy, Memoir of Rev. Charles T. Torrey Who Died in the Penitentiary of Maryland, Where He Was Confined for Showing Mercy to the Poor.

  59. Whitman, Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake, 172–73.

  60. Kuhn, “Maryland and the Moderate Conundrum.”

  61. Alexander, History of the Colored Race in America, 208.

  62. The history of Baltimore Jail and slavery is discussed in greater detail in the Explore Baltimore Heritage on the Warden’s House on Madison Street.

  63. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 240–41.

  64. Low, “The Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights in Maryland.”

  65. Mitchell, Maryland Voices of the Civil War, 357–64; ibid., 400–434.

  66. Melton, “African American Methodism in the M. E. Tradition,” 19.

  67. The Thirteenth Amendment took effect on December 18, 1865.

  68. Olmsted, “In Re Turner (1867).”

  69. The Fourteenth Amendment took effect on July 9, 1868 and the Fifteenth Amendment on March 30, 1870. The Maryland State Legislature voted to ratify both amendments nearly a century after they came into effect: April 4, 1959 for the Fourteenth and May 7, 1973 for the Fifteenth.

  70. U.S. Census, 1870; 1880; 1900; These figures, based on the U.S. Census, likely understates the true scale of Baltimore’s growing Black community. Fuke, Imperfect Equality, 112 looked at the growth in Black households listed in Woods’ City Directory noting that “the number of black householders listed… tripled from 4,000 to 12,000” between 1864 and 1871.

  71. Ibid., 206–7.

  72. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 241–42.

  73. Fuke, Imperfect Equality, 115.

  74. National Historic Landmarks Program, “Civil Rights in America,” 7.

  75. “Equal-Rights League–Demands of a Colored Convention.”

  76. Ibid.

  77. Bogen, “Precursors of Rosa Parks,” 733.

  78. Bristol Jr., Knights of the Razor, 103–4.

  79. Thomas, “A Nineteenth Century Black Operated Shipyard, 1866-1884”; Towers, “Job Busting at Baltimore Shipyards.”

  80. Fuke, Imperfect Equality, 131.

  81. Ibid., 131.

  82. Baum, Brown in Baltimore, 25–26.

  83. Low, “The Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights in Maryland,” 226; Fuke, Imperfect Equality, 117.

  84. Low, “The Freedmen’s Bureau and Education in Maryland”; Low, “The Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights in Maryland,” 247.

  85. Johnson, “The Strayer Survey and the Colored Schools of Baltimore City, 19231943,” 10.

  86. Ibid., 10.

  87. Mamiya, “A Social History of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore,” 244.

  88. Johnson, “The Strayer Survey and the Colored Schools of Baltimore City, 19231943,” 11.