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Annapolis celebrates 150 years of freedom

Volunteers work Tuesday night in the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center to complete the Maryland Emancipation Quilt. The finished quilt will be on display in the State House on Nov. 1.
Volunteers work Tuesday night in the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center to complete the Maryland Emancipation Quilt. The finished quilt will be on display in the State House on Nov. 1. (By Ryan Hunter, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that took effect Jan. 1, 1863, the document didn't apply to Maryland.

That's because Lincoln "did not want to turn off or anger those border states with slaves that had remained faithful to the Union — like Missouri, Maryland, Kentucky and Delaware," said Chris Haley, director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland in the research department of the Maryland State Archives.

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In fact, it was nearly two years later, on Nov. 1, 1864, that Maryland's third Constitution actually freed slaves in the Free State.

To mark the 150th anniversary of Maryland emancipation, the Annapolis Commission on Maryland's 3rd Constitution and the Abolishment of Slavery — also known as Annapolis 1864 — is hosting a series of events reflecting on the state's antebellum past.

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Events begin Saturday with games, exhibits and an archaeological dig at Belvoir, Scott's Plantation, in Crownsville, from noon until 3 p.m. The commemoration continues with lectures, exhibits and screening of a documentary film, through Nov. 1.

Emancipation events are planned throughout the state, but Annapolis sees itself focusing on the commemoration.

In 2007, Annapolis officials issued a declaration apologizing for the city government's role in slavery and encouraging residents to use the last week in October to reflect on the history of slavery and its effect on African-Americans. Four years later, the City Council created Annapolis 1864.

"Our commission was created to do what the apology didn't — recognize the city's past and the people who built it," said Janice Hayes-Williams, who heads the commission and petitioned for its creation.

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For three years the commission has held events marking Maryland emancipation, including re-enactments and gospel concerts.

"As long as people are interested in history, we'll continue," Hayes-Williams said. "It's imperative we keep the story alive for generations to come."

Annapolis 1864 events

Tickets for all events are available online at the Historic Annapolis Foundation website, annapolis.org. The schedule is subject to change.

Saturday: Archaeological dig noon to 3 p.m. at Belvoir, Scott's Plantation, 1487 Generals Highway, Crownsville. Admission: $25 adults, $5 children.

Oct. 25: Black Union soldiers re-enactment and artifacts on display 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, 1101 Smithville St., Annapolis. Free.

Oct. 26: Day of prayer, reflections and remembrance at various places of worship.

Oct. 27: Screening and reception for "Annapolis 1864," a short documentary on Annapolis and Anne Arundel County during the Civil War, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Banneker-Douglass Museum, 24 Franklin St., Annapolis. Free.

Oct. 28: Exhibits and lecture by historian Anthony Cohen, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis. Free, but reservations requested. Space is limited.

Oct. 29: Lecture "Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln" 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Francis Scott Key Auditorium, St. John's College, Annapolis. Free, but reservations requested. Space is limited.

Oct. 30: Play "Four Women of Annapolis," 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Annapolis High School, 2700 Riva Road. Free, but reservations requested. Space is limited.

Oct. 31: Libation ceremony and laying of a "port marker" to identify Annapolis as a former port of entry for slaves, 6 p.m. at Susan Campbell Park, Annapolis. Free.

Nov. 1: Emancipation Day Proclamation and unveiling of the Maryland Emancipation Quilt, which illustrates the life of African-Americans in Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore, 10 a.m. at the Old House of Delegates Chambers, State House, Annapolis. Free.

Nov. 1: Celebration and awards gala, 7 p.m. to midnight at Loews Annapolis Hotel, 126 West St., Annapolis. Admission $100.

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