Africa’s Maryland: Manumission and Emigration of Maryland’s Freed People, ca. 1836

Maryland Avenue.  South Baltimore Street.  Water Street.  Are these streets in Maryland? (1)

The answer is “yes” if you’re thinking of Maryland County in Africa.  Located at the southeastern tip of Liberia, “Maryland County” takes its current name for the independent settlement and later republic, which began in the 1830s under the direction of the Maryland State Colonization Society.  That organization’s mission was to manage the removal of recently-manumitted African-Americans to Africa or elsewhere.  Between 1831 and 1851, the society oversaw the state-enforced emigration of 1,025 Maryland-born individuals of color. (2)

Fifteen of those individuals comprised a single unit – the family of Thomas and Frances Davenport (ages 46 and 44, respectively), who had thirteen children and grandchildren.  An extract from a Frederick County court record, available at the University of Maryland Special Collections, indicates that the Davenport family was freed by their master Adam Wever on June 24, 1836.  But only on “the express Condition that the above named negroes, & each, + every of them shall within a reasonable time from the date of said manumission proceed to the Colony of Cape Palmas in Maryland, in Liberia on the Coast of Africa, + there continue to reside” (http://digital.lib.umd.edu/image?pid=umd:89408).

Indeed, under two weeks after obtaining their freedom from bondage, the Davenport family were nearly compelled to board the brig Financier in Baltimore harbor, along with two other emancipated African-Americans, and sailed for Africa. Thomas Davenport, a farmer and carpenter, lived in the new colony on the west coast of Africa until his death of dropsy in 1843. Indeed, life was precious there. By 1852, only eight of the original fifteen family members – Frances Davenport, six of her children, and one granddaughter – were known to reside in the Maryland colony. (3)

The nation of Liberia and its “Maryland County” deserves recognition within the history of Maryland, which in its broadest sense ought to include mention of the places outside of Maryland which natives of the state have shaped. In particular, the passage by the Maryland legislature of “An act relating to the People of Color in this state” on March 12, 1832, contributed directly to the creation of African-American settlements in Africa. The act empowered a three-person Board of Managers, chosen from among members of the Maryland State Colonization Society, to act on the state’s behalf and with the state’s money to not only encourage slaveholders to free their slaves, but to police the free black community. In the wake of Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia, the politicians who had been elected to represent the state of Maryland passed this measure largely in order to prevent the further growth of the free African-American population, which numbered over 50,000 in the state in 1830. (4)

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(A facsimile of the fifty-cent and one dollar paper currency issued by the Board of Managers beginning in October 1837. Also issued were bills equivalent to five, ten, and twenty-five cents. For use by the Maryland emigrants to Liberia at the “Government Store” in Harper, only the equivalent of eight hundred dollars was printed during the first run. (John H.B. Latrobe, “Maryland in Liberia”: a history of the colony planted by the Maryland State Colonization Society under the auspices of the State of Maryland, U.S., at Cape Palmas on the south-west coast of Africa, 1833-1853 (John Murphy & Co.: Baltimore, 1885), p. 57-59, between 134-135). Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries). 

One of the measures within the 1832 law involved county clerks and registers of wills, who were deputized into reporting the number and details of the individuals who had been manumitted. Thus, the author of the aforementioned extract, Henry Schley, clerk of the Circuit Court in Frederick County since 1835, when he took over the job from his father, was just following orders when he reported the names and ages of Thomas and Frances Davenport and their offspring to the “Board of Managers.” (4) Schley would have been penalized ten dollars every time he failed to hand-copy this type of record and send it to the authorities in question. The Board of Managers were then supposed to “notify the American Colonization Society, or the Maryland State Colonization Society thereof, and to propose to such society that they shall engage, at the expense of such society, to remove said slave or slaves so manumitted to Liberia.” If the newly emancipated individuals expressed a desire to remain within North America’s Maryland, the board was to alert the sheriff, who would escort them out of the state. To remain in the state, the manumitted could, however, “renounce, in open court, the benefit of said deed or will, and to continue a slave.” Another portion of the law allowed the Board of Managers to hire out (or temporarily purchase) slaves intended to be manumitted. The income accrued from the slave’s labor would help pay for the expenses of removal to Africa. (5)

Without the compliance of county clerks like Schley, the counting and emigration of manumitted African-Americans across the entire state of Maryland would have been more difficult.  Over 160 documents in the Maryland Manuscripts Collection at the University of Maryland (http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1716) – quite a few in the hand of Frederick County’s clerk Henry Schley – record the manumission, as well as the sale, of slaves to the Board of Managers working on behalf of the Maryland State Colonization Society’s goal of creating Maryland in Africa. Given that only 1,025 individuals left for Liberia out of some 5,571 recorded manumissions in the state between 1831 and 1851, the success of the colonial project – if not the success of the colony – remains debatable. (6)


 

Dr. Eric C. Stoykovich is the Historical Manuscripts Project Archivist in the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library, where he works under the Curator on collections which tell the story of political officials and civic groups in the state of Maryland. He received his MLS from UMD’s iSchool and a PhD in American history from the University of Virginia. His interests include archival history, political development, and institutional change.

(1) (n.d.). [Maryland, Liberia]. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from https://goo.gl/h6mKq9
(2) “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview” (fn. 17), Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland, available at: http://slavery.msa.maryland.gov/html/casestudies/mscs_overview.pdf#search=manumission%20chapter%20281
(3) Richard L. Hall, On Afric’s Shore: A History of Maryland in Liberia, 1834-1857 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2003), 454-455.
(4) “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview” (fn. 18), Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland, available at: http://slavery.msa.maryland.gov/html/casestudies/mscs_overview.pdf#search=manumission%20chapter%20281
(5) The Schley Family Papers. Frederick County Historical Society, Frederick, Maryland. Finding aid available at: https://hsfrederickco.wordpress.com/finding-aids-2/ms0008-the-schley-family-papers/
(6) Maryland General Assembly. 1831-1832 Session laws, Chapter 281, “An act relating to the People of Color in this state.” http://www.msa.md.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000213/html/am213–343.html
(7) “Maryland State Colonization Society Overview” (fn. 17), Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland, available at: http://slavery.msa.maryland.gov/html/casestudies/mscs_overview.pdf#search=manumission%20chapter%20281

Increasing our capacity

Last year, we began a major shifting project. The new shelves are ridiculously tall and very deep. Material can be “dense packed” meaning that there is a whole lot of stuff every shelf.

In January, library staff got a sneak peak and saw our books’ new home. The environment is highly controlled and the humidity and temperature are just right for keeping our material safe.

The best part of this is that we now have the capacity to collect and purchase even more material for you! This allows us to grow and adapt to better suit your, the researchers, needs.

Check out these photos from my visit.

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Speaking Abilities: Vice President Agnew, Spanish Speakers, and Foreign Born Americans in 1970

The Vice Presidential papers of Spiro T. Agnew contains a transcript of a press conference which took place in the White House on July 7, 1970. Agnew reportedly said,

“It is one of the disabilities of our culture as Americans that we don’t have more attention paid to the need of our citizens to speak the language of our contiguous neighbors. There are very few Americans, I think, that are fluent in Spanish, along with the 2,000-mile border that separates us from Mexico.”

Agnew – a lifelong member of the Republican Party – accepted that speaking Spanish (even as a primary language) was not a disqualification for citizenship in the United States and he addressed the situation of “Spanish-speaking citizens” as a set of linked social “problems.” Seeing himself as “a minority citizen” by virtue of his father’s Greek ancestry, Agnew spoke of the acceptable arousal of the “public conscience” by “members of minority groups” to “use demonstrative measures to trigger the public interest.” (1)

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During an official state visit to Greece in October 1971, Vice-President Agnew dedicated a plaque in Gargalionai, the hometown of his father, who immigrated to the United States in 1897. Official White House Photograph, Spiro T. Agnew Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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A Look Back at 2016

With 2017 right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reminisce on all the happenings that shaped Special Collections and University Archives in 2015!

We’ve posted stories on new acquisitionsexhibits and events like Alice 150 and Maryland Day, and also UMD class visits to Special Collections and University Archives.

Take a trip back in the year with the top 10 blog posts with the most views in 2016:

  1. Heavy Metal Parking Lot and the Jeff Krulik Collection
  2. Explore ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ at UMD!
  3. AFL-CIO Merger
  4. 130 Years of Progress: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, 1886-2016
  5. LGBT Advocacy and the AFL-CIO
  6. AFL-CIO Artifact Project: Summer 2016
  7. Spotlight on Wonderland: The March Hare
  8. Minikins Miss Dot Sr. and Miss Dot Jr. Return to Campus after a Half-Century
  9. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech to AFL-CIO
  10. Spotlight on Wonderland: The Dormouse

Here’s a shout out to posts that were published in previous years, but still rank among our most viewed posts this year:

  1. William Morris, Walter Crane, and Socialist Art
  2. Books Published Before 1850
  3. Featured Novelist from Special Collections: Ferdinand Reyher
  4. Achievements and Milestones in UMD Athletics
  5. Edgar Allan Poe in Special Collections

Is there something you want to learn about Special Collections and University Archives in 2017? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Holidays from Special Collections

A new exhibit is on display in the Maryland Room will get you in the holiday spirit! We’ve selected the jolliest holiday cards and ephemera from our literary and historical several collections, including the Theodore R. McKeldin Paper, Gordon W. Prange Papers, Djuna Barnes Papers, Robert Frost Book Collection, and Spiro T. Agnew Papers, and  William Addison Dwiggins Collection.

Items from our literary collection include a selection of holiday chapbooks printed by the Spiral Press with the poetry of Robert Frost.  Colorful holiday cards from author T.S. Eliot and socialite Peggy Guggenheim to writer/artist Djuna Barnes are also featured. An impressive oversized edition of A Christmas Carol on display was designed and illustrated by W.A. Dwiggins, and was bound in festive green leather and marbled paper design.

We also pulled interesting holiday-themed items from our historical collection, including a set of beautiful Japanese inspired holiday cards received by UMD professor and historian Gordon W. Prange. A variety of presidential holiday cards given to Governor of Maryland Theodore McKeldin include holiday greetings from US Presidents Nixon, Eisenhower, Johnson, as well as the President of Israel Zalman Sazar. A political cartoon with Santa from the AFL-CIO archives and speech given by Vice President Agnew at a tree lighting ceremony on Washington DC also add to the historical holiday fun.

Visit the Maryland Room to explore the holiday fun! You can also pick up a free holiday card featuring images from our Baltimore News American Photograph Collection!

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Remembering E. Barrett Prettyman

On November 4, 2016, E. Barret Prettyman Jr. (1925-2016) passed away. He was a well-known attorney with an impressive legacy that spans international relations, civil rights, literature, and more. He also holds an interesting connection to American author Katherine Anne Porter and the University of Maryland.

You care about Prettyman if you care about important Supreme Court cases like Brown versus Board of Education, the landmark case that desegregated public schools, and for which Prettyman served as on the advisory council for in 1954. You care about Prettyman if you care about the 1962 release of American prisoners taken during Bay of Pigs crisis during which Prettyman successfully negotiated with then Cuban President Fidel Castro for their return and safe release. You care about Prettyman if you are at all concerned with the House Ethics committee, the First Ammendment, and the death penalty. Over the course of his long legal career, Prettyman became heavily involved with all of these areas of the legal system. The obituaries in the Washington Post and New York Times illustrate his storied career and commitment to the legal system.

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Portrait of Prettyman inscribed to Porter: “For Katherine Anne, With happy memories of lovely, relaxed, and fiery reminiscent afternoons of good talk in the best of company, and with love, Barrett”

As the one of the repositories of Prettyman’s personal papers, Special Collections and University Archives at UMD holds not only the documents that reveal Prettyman’s legal Continue reading