Archaeological dig begins in nation’s oldest free black community

| June 28, 2014 | 2 Comments

TalbotCountyMarylandHomepagArchaeology begins June 23 on The Hill, a historic African American community that scholars believe will prove to be the oldest in the nation still in existence.

The Hill Community Project began in 2010 and is comprised of six core research areas including archaeology, oral history, genealogy, historiography, land records, and preservation. Scholars conducting the historical and archaeological research believe that The Hill Community will prove to be the oldest still in existence continuously inhabited by free persons of color.

In 2012, archaeologists excavated the Buffalo Soldier’s House, and in 2013, their work continued at the James Price House.  This summer, the third excavation will be publicly accessible at the historic Bethel AME Church, dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878. Other early free black sites being unearthed on The Hill this year include the Perry Sprouse site, the Jeremiah Banning site, and the original Bethel AME church site. The digs will continue through July 11.

Findings from The Hill could rewrite history. “Fort Mose near St. Augustine, Florida, was the earliest free black community, but today there is no evidence of its existence, above or below ground,” says Dale Glenwood Green, the Morgan State University professor of architecture and historic preservation who spearheads The Hill Community Project. “Treme in New Orleans was settled in 1812 as an African American neighborhood, but experienced significant damage by Hurricane Katrina, which has resulted in the loss of much of the community’s fabric.”

“The Hill Community is a rare intact, but overlooked, free black community that was settled during the American Revolution,” Green continues. “In 1790, there were 410 free persons of color settled on The Hill, making this the largest free black community in the Chesapeake Region.”

More than 1,100 people toured The Hill Community in 2013. Scholars will again offer free tours of The Hill Community as the archaeological digs continue this summer.

The free tours of The Hill Community will be led by Professor Green at 3 p.m. on Fridays from June 20-August 22. Tours will begin at the Talbot County Office of Tourism located in the Visitor Center at 11 S. Harrison Street in Easton.

Members of the historic Asbury United Methodist Church, also dedicated by Frederick Douglass in 1878, will offer soul food dinners to visitors on tour days for $12 per person. Proceeds will support the restoration of the church. Reservations must be made three days in advance by calling the Talbot County Office of Tourism at (410) 770-8000.

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John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009. John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.