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Local Online Tools for Researching African American History

Jun 17 2020

Local Online Tools for Researching African American History

Banneker-Douglass MuseumThe Four Rivers Heritage Area has a wealth of African American stories. African Americans have lived in Annapolis for over three centuries. From the 1700s through today, one-third or more of the city of Annapolis’s population has been African American. Their lives are also documented and preserved in Anne Arundel County. Even when our heritage sites and museums are still closed, you can find online resources for researching this important part of our area’s history today.

The Maryland State Archives has two digital resources available while their Search Room remains closed. They have provided a guide to Researching African American Families at the Maryland State Archives. These records concerning African Americans, once neglected by professional historians and genealogists alike, provide new insights into the Maryland experience for people of color. Their project, Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, seeks to preserve and promote the vast universe of experiences that have shaped the lives of Maryland’s African American population. The Maryland State Archives’ Study of the Legacy of Slavery staff invites researchers to explore all of these elements and more within its numerous source documents, exhibits and interactive online presentations.

We’d also like to remind you that the Banneker-Douglass Museum (pictured above) offers an Online Collections Database of over 12,000 curated archival records, books, maps, photographs, and artwork. Explore artifacts and journals donated by Arctic explorer Herbert M. Frisby; photographs, equipment, and personal effects of photographer Thomas Baden; medical instruments and artifacts from the 1920s through the 1950s; West African sculpture and utilitarian objects; works by Black Maryland artists, including Joyce Scott, Nathaniel Gibbs, Hughie Lee-Smith, and much more.

Four Rivers partnered with Anne Arundel County’s Office of Planning and Zoning and the Lost Towns Project to create the African-American Voices, Memories and Places: A Four Rivers Heritage Trail, a virtual tool for exploring our area’s African American history and heritage. The online “trail” highlights approximately 200 historic sites about African American life in Anne Arundel County’s Four Rivers Heritage Area. The project was created by local and professional historians, genealogists, and citizens. Visitors will discover local history through videos, images, and maps, sources which reveal information about the lives of African Americans in the county.

Beyond the Four Rivers Heritage Area, the Enoch Pratt Free Library hosts the African American Funeral Programs Collection.  The Collection consists of more than 1800 funeral service programs dating from the 1960s to the present, collected by the African American Department of the Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center in Baltimore. Included are programs of African Americans from all walks of life, and though most programs are of Marylanders, there are some of African Americans from other states.

If you know of any other valuable online research resources we should add to this list, please let us know by emailing us at [email protected].