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Ashburton opens up the doors to 10 historic homes with stories to tell for Juneteenth

Ashburton, a bastion of Baltimore’s Black elite, has long been home to such notable African Americans as Alice Pinderhughes, Rev. Vernon Dobson and Frank Robinson. On June 19, visitors can take a look inside some of their residences.

From left, A.J. Foster and Kendra Abaidoo, co-chairs of the Ashburton Beautification Committee, with John Crew Jr., President of the Ashburton Area Association, on Sequoia Avenue in their leafy northwest Baltimore neighborhood.
From left, A.J. Foster and Kendra Abaidoo, co-chairs of the Ashburton Beautification Committee, with John Crew Jr., President of the Ashburton Area Association, on Sequoia Avenue in their leafy northwest Baltimore neighborhood. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

The neighborhood’s upcoming Juneteenth celebration is a result of the Ashburton Area Association’s decision to honor African Americans who made strides in Baltimore and the greater African American community, said AJ Foster, the chair of the Beautification Committee of Ashburton.

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On Wednesday Congress voted to make June 19 a federal holiday. The measure was expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

On Juneteenth, Ashburton Area Association will host a tour of 10 homes of notable African Americans, including those of Pinderhuges, Baltimore City Public Schools’ first African American Superintendent; Dobson, a civil rights activist; Robinson, the Hall of Fame outfielder and first Black manager in Major League Baseball in the modern era; civil rights leader Walter P. Carter; and lawyer and civil rights leader Dwight Pettit.

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John Crew Jr., president of the Ashburton Area Association, said the racial reckoning brought about by the death of George Floyd as he was being arrested by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last year was one reason the neighborhood decided to mark Juneteenth for the first time in recent memory.

“A lot of people don’t know what Juneteenth is. I learned about it five years ago,” he said.

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they, and others in states rebelling against the North, were free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The day has been celebrated since the 1880s.

Sequoia Avenue, one of the leafy streets in the northwest Baltimore neighborhood of Ashburton, which is holding a Juneteenth walking tour Saturday.
Sequoia Avenue, one of the leafy streets in the northwest Baltimore neighborhood of Ashburton, which is holding a Juneteenth walking tour Saturday. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

The Ashburton tour, which will begin at 10 a.m. on Sequoia Avenue, will be followed by a panel discussion on the history of the neighborhood around 12:30 p.m.

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Often referred to as a suburb in the city, Ashburton boasts many single-family homes, with notable architecture, front lawns and big backyards, said AJ Foster, the chair of the Ashburton Beautification Committee.

“We are a community rich in resources,” he said. “And in the future, we hope to remain a community that provides safety and security for families to not just live, but to thrive in Baltimore City.”

Juneteenth should be celebrated like the Fourth of July, which is prominent in American culture, Foster argued.

“Juneteenth is a big deal that should be celebrated not just in the South, but all around the country,” he said. “It is often said men are created equal. And if we are, regardless of our race, [Juneteenth] is something that should be celebrated.”

In addition to its Juneteenth celebration, Ashburton has been marking its centennial.

Founded in October 1920 as a summer home for people who lived in the downtown area of Baltimore, Ashburton became popular for its cool summer days, Foster said.

In the early 1950s, during the height of white flight, there was a period when Black people moved into the community and integration happened, Foster said. As the 1960s became the 1970s, white flight hit Ashburton again, and it became a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Events like home garden tours, a fall harvest and a holiday spirit competition have been part of the neighborhood’s centennial so far.

The holiday spirit celebration was inspired by Joy Carter, the wife of Walter P. Carter, who at one point would leave a ribbon at the door of residents with the most holiday spirit.

In addition, there will be a gala, a documentary on the history of the neighborhood and a symposium. Locations and dates still are being finalized.

“The neighborhood is blessed to have many prominent residents, past and present, that have demonstrated leadership in various fields,” Crew said. “It is all of our residents, past and present, that make up the fabric of our rich community heritage.”

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