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Sykesville reclaims African-American history, renames Warfield Park 'Carrie Dorsey Park'

The Sykesville Mayor and Town Council proclaimed Warfield Park has officially been renamed "Carrie Dorsey Park" on June 25, 2018, to recognize the role her family played in the rich African-American history of Sykesville.

The Sykesville mayor and Town Council proclaimed at their June 25 meeting that Warfield Park has been renamed Carrie Dorsey Park, to recognize the African-American woman who raised her 12 children in Sykesville during the 1920s.

Her son, Warren Dorsey, 97, who currently lives in Frederick, and daughter, Rosie, 92, who still lives in Sykesville, were among family members present for the official proclamation Monday evening. Also in attendance was Warren Dorsey’s wife Carolyn, his two sons, two nieces, his nephew and nephew’s wife.

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Carrie Dorsey told her children, “There’s going to be a better tomorrow,” said Warren Dorsey, “and when the [Historic Sykesville Colored] Schoolhouse came, she seizes upon it. She saw a light out: education. ‘Get some [education] kids, and you will find that better tomorrow.’

“And we were never to say a bad thing about anybody,” said Dorsey, “because my mother never said a cross word to anybody. She told us kids, ‘If you don’t have something good to say about anybody, then don’t say anything at all.’ And that was a firm belief, and this was a wonderful woman. In spite of her lack of formal training, she was a tremendous organizer and she dedicated her life to the rearing of the 12 of us, and I’m honored to be one of those 12 kids.”

Jack White, curator of Sykesville’s Gate House Museum, wrote a book about the Dorsey family, “Carrie’s Footprints: The Long Walk of Warren Dorsey,” that was chosen in 2017 as the first in the Carroll One Book project, a collaboration between the Carroll County Public Library and Carroll County Public Schools system designed to foster conversations about race and race relations.

Dorsey’s children, the grandchildren of a slave, went to the Colored Schoolhouse and four of them later obtained college degrees. The book also shares Warren Dorsey’s struggles, as he overcame war, sickness, racism and an impoverished childhood — ultimately becoming a scientist, teacher and school principal.

“The Dorsey family is such an important part of Sykesville history,” Mayor Ian Shaw said at the meeting. “It is amazing and such an honor to be able to do this for your family.”

“These are our roots,” Dorsey said. “We believe in Sykesville. Sykesville has come a long way.”

The motion to pass the resolution renaming the park was voted with the mayor and all council members in favor except Councilman Alan Grasley. Grasley said he would have supported the idea more if it were for a brand-new park, not Warfield, at the May 29 meeting when Councilman Christopher True originally suggested renaming it after Dorsey.

“We are losing the Warfield history,” Grasley said at the May meeting. “I think if it were a brand-new park, I’d be all for it, but I think it should remain Warfield.”

True disagreed.

“We have several streets named after Warfield,” True said in reply, “but we don’t have many things to recognize African-American heritage in Sykesville. I think part of that history should be recognized as well.

“We have quite a few monuments, quite a few designations for some of the various founders of Sykesville, but we should recognize all the communities of Sykesville.”

Warren Dorsey speaks at various events in Sykesville about his life and experiences, and is scheduled this fall to be a part of the town’s “Sunday Porch Talks at the Gate House” series on Sept. 16. More information about Dorsey’s appearances can be found by contacting the Sykesville Town House at 410-795-8959.

Warren Dorsey shakes hands with Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw as Councilman Christopher True holds the proclamation renaming Warfield Park after Dorsey's mother, Carrie.
Warren Dorsey shakes hands with Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw as Councilman Christopher True holds the proclamation renaming Warfield Park after Dorsey's mother, Carrie. (Jennifer Turiano)
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