Top 6 African American Heritage Sites in and around Annapolis
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park has officially been open to the public for four months and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture has already welcomed one million visitors since opening in September of 2016! Interest in our country’s African American legacy is greater than ever, and once you’ve been to Cambridge or Washington, DC there’s still more to see and learn!
If you’re looking for local stories and experiences, make sure to check out some of the heritage sites that feature our African American stories (listed by distance from City Dock in downtown Annapolis). Of course, every historic site includes African American heritage! Click on the name of each site listed below for location, hours, and more!
1. Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial
Annapolis City Dock
This site memorializes the contributions of Alex Haley, author of Roots. At the Harbour, Haley’s ancestor, Kunta Kinte, allegedly arrived aboard the Lord Ligonier and was sold into slavery in 1767. Here, 48 slave ships unloaded their human cargo in the 20 years before the American Revolution. The memorial includes a sculptural grouping depicting Alex Haley, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Roots, speaking to children about Kunta Kinte.
2. Historic Annapolis Museum
99 Main Street, Annapolis
Located upstairs from the Historic Annapolis Museum Store, the exhibit Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake tells the stories of nine servants and slaves who tried to escape from forced servitude between 1728 and 1864. “Freedom” was their goal, but that meant different things to different people at different times. Some escape attempts succeeded, while other runaways were recaptured. For most whose flight is documented in historic newspapers, such as Annapolis’s Maryland Gazette, their fates remain unknown.
3. Banneker-Douglass Museum
84 Franklin Street, Annapolis
This museum is the official state repository for African-American cultural materials, and named for two famous Marylanders: Benjamin Banneker and Frederick Douglass. Inside, you’ll find permanent exhibits highlighting the lives of slaves in Maryland, important Maryland turning points in the Civil Rights Movement, and highlights of important African-American Marylanders like Matthew Henson, credited with discovering the North Pole with Admiral Robert Perry in 1909.
4. Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center
1101 Smithville Street, Annapolis
The Legacy Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of Wiley H. Bates High School, formerly (1932 to 1966) the only high school for African Americans in Anne Arundel County. It is a unique cultural arts heritage center displaying historical documents and collections that preserve the African American experience.
5. Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center
3200 Wayman Avenue, Highland Beach
The Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center, housed in “Twin Oaks”, the summer cottage built in 1895 for Frederick Douglass, was purchased and restored in the early 1980’s. Its mission is to promote a greater understanding of the life and work of Frederick Douglass and his family; to identify, document, and preserve the social and cultural histories of Highland Beach and Venice Beach; and to make these resources available for information and research.
6. Historic London Town and Gardens
839 Londontown Road, Edgewater
This “lost town” was a major port of call in the 1730s for ships taking tobacco to Britain and bringing African slaves, indentured workers, and convicts to Maryland. The town’s most prominent figure, James Dick, imported slaves on a large scale and put them to work in his ropewalk and other businesses. Restored as a National Historic Landmark, the mansion, gardens, and newly recreated buildings are a wonderful example of Anne Arundel County’s initiative to preserve the area’s African-American History.