Black History Month

Black History Month in Annapolis

The Black Annapolis Speaker Series

The Black Annapolis speaker series was a three part in-person and virtual event in partnership with the Michael E. Busch Library and the City of Annapolis that featured the brightest minds locally in the fields of: Economics, Education, Elections, and Entertainment. The events took place over a series of Tuesday evenings in February 2022. Videos of the event are archived on the City's YouTube channel.

2021 State of Black Annapolis

1740s: Unnamed Enslaved and Servant Peoples

When Annapolis was chartered as a City in 1708, one-third of the landowners in City limits listed slaves as property.

Another third of landowners listed servants. Of course, there was overlap between these two groups ­— the wealthier landowners having both slaves and servants. Slavery was legalized in Maryland in 1663-64.  By 1740, Annapolis as an entry point for imported slaves was minimal, landowners instead relying on childbearing, reducing the need for import.

Source:Jane Wilson McWilliams, “Annapolis City on the Severn”

1750s: Slave Life in Annapolis

People held in bondage in the City of Annapolis probably had a different day-to-day experience from their more rural counterparts.

Unlike other areas in Anne Arundel County, slaves in the City of Annapolis were not typically field laborers. In Annapolis, people held in bondage were more likely to live in the same house with whites. They were  likely skilled craftsmen or domestic servants. While they probably had more freedom of movement than their rural counterparts, the City mandated tight control over slaves by instituting and enforcing laws that prohibited the “harboring or entertaining” of slaves inside City limits.

Source: Jane Wilson McWilliams, “Annapolis City on the Severn

1760s: Kunte Kinte

Kunta Kinte (featured in Alex Haley’s Roots) arrived in Annapolis.

In September of 1767, Kunta Kinte (featured in Alex Haley’s Roots) arrived in Annapolis as part of a cargo of slaves aboard the Lord Ligonier. According to Roots, Kunta Kinte was based on one of Haley’s ancestors: a Gambian man who was born in 1750 in the Mandinka village of Juffure in the Gambia. One day in 1767, while searching for wood to make a drum for his younger brother, four men chased him and took him captive. He was put on the slave ship for the four-month Middle Passage voyage to North America.

Source: Maryland State Archives “Researching African American Families”

 1770s: Maryland State House

Maryland State House and major construction projects around Anne Arundel County and Annapolis.

Most major construction projects in Annapolis during this era included labor from slaves or indentured servants. While there is no written documentation or names of slave labor used in the rebuilding of the state house (1769-1779), it is likely that craftsman hired would have brought along slaves and/or indentured servants to help with the work. Simply because there is no line item on disbursements does not mean that these craftsmen did not bring along laborers or even skilled craftsmen held in bondage. These trades included carpenters, masons, and plasterers.

Source: Jane Wilson McWilliams, “Annapolis City on the Severn

1780s: Anti-Slavery Societies

Anti-slavery advocates began a push to abolish slavery and emancipate enslaved individuals.

In 1789, anti-slavery advocates, including Annapolitan Charles Carroll of Carrollton, founded the “Maryland Society for the Relief of Poor Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage,” which provided legal assistance to enslaved individuals seeking their freedom and also unsuccessfully petitioned the Maryland General Assembly for a gradual emancipation law.

Source: Maryland State Archives “Researching African American Families”

1790s: Post Revolutionary War Era

Although black persons participated in the Revolutionary War effort, once the period of conflict passed, the role of free and enslaved blacks became increasingly restricted in society. 

In 1793, blacks are no longer allowed in the Maryland military. Also in 1793, Congress passed the fugitive slave law, allowing for prosecution of runaways and their return to their masters. In 1796, Maryland courts declared that testimony of blacks was inadmissible in freedom suits and moved cases to county courts.

Source: Maryland State Archives “Researching African American Families”

1800s: Lucy Smith, John Smith, William Bishop & Moses Lake

Early business tenants at Market House and in Downtown Annapolis included Lucy Smith, John Smith, William Bishop and Moses Lake.

Lucy Smith rented Stall No. 9 for at least seven consecutive years in Annapolis Market House. She also operated a bakeshop, “Aunt Lucy’s Bake Shop,”near the corner of Main and Green Streets.

John Smith, Jr. was her son and alongside other African American entrepreneurs, including William Bishop and Moses Lake, free blacks owned and operated businesses in downtown Annapolis.

Source: Jane Wilson McWilliams, “Annapolis City on the Severn

1810s: War of 1812

The War became an opportunity for slaves to escape when British warships moored off of Annapolis.

When British ships sailed into the Chesapeake Bay, residents of Annapolis watched with a wary eye, awaiting imminent attack. That attack never came, but white residents, including the then-governor, fled the City. The local enslaved population saw the opening and an opportunity for escape. In all 21 enslaved peoples, including 20 belonging to one Maria Margaret Ogle, rowed out to the HMS Menelaus and other ships anchored off of Annapolis and found their way to freedom in Canada and other locations. In all, some 700 Maryland slaves escaped during the War of 1812.


1820s: Henry Price

Henry Price was a businessman and pastor who helped found Asbury United Methodist Church.

After Nat Turner’s rebellion, anxiety among whites toward both freed and enslaved blacks grew. It eventually led Henry Price and John Smith Jr. in Annapolis to offer whites public assurances that anything threatening good order would not be tolerated. In 1832, after the General Assembly passed a law limiting the rights of “free negroes and mulattos” to assemble (aside from religious purposes), prompted Methodists to separate themselves into two congregations: white and black. By 1838, Asbury United Methodist Church was its own, separate congregation.

Source: Jane Wilson McWilliams, “Annapolis City on the Severn

1830s: John T. Maynard

John T. Maynard was born free and worked as a waiter. He ran an Annapolis boarding house.

In 1847, when he was 36, Maynard bought the land at 163 Duke of Gloucester St. for $400. He bought his wife Maria, her daughter and mother-in-law out of slavery. The Maynards ran it as a boarding house until 1915, when Willis Burgess, one of their African-American tenants, purchased it at auction. The house remained in the Burgess family until 1990, making the home a time capsule of more than 140 uninterrupted years of African-American life in Annapolis. The home is now known as the Maynard-Burgess house. It is owned by the City of Annapolis and is undergoing historic preservation.


1840s: Census 1840

1840 denotes the first Census when free blacks outnumbered slaves in the City of Annapolis.

In 1830, the number of African Americans in Annapolis was 458 free and 578 enslaved. By 1840, City Census takers counted 586 free and 499 enslaved. It was a gradual but steady rise due to manumission or natural gain and, in a few cases, in-migration.

By 1840, fully one-quarter of City households were headed by African Americans. Many freedmen worked to manumit family members and relatives. In Annapolis in 1840, skin color was no longer an automatic sign of bondage.

Source: United States Census Bureau

1850s: William H. Butler

William H. Butler was Maryland’s first African-American elected City Council member.

Born into slavery, Butler was manumitted at age 21 by Rezin Snowden. He was a skilled carpenter and married Sarah Brown of Acton Lane. By 35, he had purchased a home on Duke of Gloucester. Butler was a Trustee of Asbury United Methodist and was instrumental in acquiring land on West Street for the burial ground that is known today as Brewer Hill Cemetery. He was one of seven men who acquired land to build the Stanton Colored School. A member of the Masonic Lodge, Universal Lodge No. 14 and Odd Fellows, he owned 12 properties as well as businesses along Market Street and houses on Carroll Alley (now Pinkney Street).

Source: Janice Hayes Willia\ms/The Capital (February 2018)

1860s: Slavery Ends in Maryland in 1864

Maryland issued a new Constitution that included Emancipation in 1864.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery in all states that were in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863.

Because Maryland stayed in the Union during the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply. A year later, in 1864, the Maryland General Assembly   wrote a new constitution for the state that made slavery illegal after that date (Nov. 1, 1864).

Source: “Maryland & the Underground

1870s: James Holliday

James Holliday was a messenger for the Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.

Born a slave, James Holliday was freed in 1819. He began his job as a messenger at the US Naval Academy in 1845 and found his way to a comfortable middle-class life when he purchased his home, Holliday House, on East Street in 1850. Holliday purchased 97, 99 and 101 East Streets in the 1850s. In 2012, dishes and a revolver were among items discovered during an excavation in the back yard of the property. Holliday lived with his family in the home until his death in 1882. The home is still in the possession of descendants of Holliday.

Source: Neil Tickner/Futurity (June 2011)

 1880s: Universal Lodge #14

The original building was built on Clay Street in 1880 as a two-story frame building to be  headquarters for black civilian employees of the U.S. Naval Academy. 

In 1940, the African Masonic Lodge acquired the property, renovated it, and added a 30 foot addition. It became known as Universal Lodge #14 and became a significant and historic part of the social fabric of the Clay Street community, particularly in the 1960s. The historic lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lodge will undergo renovations in 2020 as part of a grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Source: City of Annapolis, Department of Planning and Zoning

1890s: Wiley H. Bates

Wiley H. Bates was an Annapolis businessman, politician and education advocate.

Bates arrived in Annapolis in 1872 (from North Carolina) where he began work as a waterman and later a grocer and politician. He is best remembered for his fierce advocacy for children’s education. He petitioned the City for a school for African American children. It opened as the Stanton School, the first public school for black children in Anne Arundel County. His generosity led to the construction of a high school, which opened after his passing and was dedicated as the Wiley H. Bates High School. That school is now the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center (on Smithville Street), which opened in 2006.


1900s: William Clarence Matthews

William Clarence Matthews was a Harvard baseball player who integrated an Annapolis Hotel.

A Harvard ballplayer, Matthews (for a few days in 1908) integrated the then-segregated Maryland Hotel by traveling here to play against the US Naval Academy. The hotel gave Matthews accommodations, but would not seat him in the dining room. Instead, his white Harvard teammates chose to avoid the dining room themselves and eat with their teammate in a private room where they were, in fact, served (by a mostly black staff). Matthews was a draw, but when the Academy team threatened not to play if he was in the lineup, Harvard decided against playing him.

Source: Hannah Joplin, “Life in a Black Community”

1910s: Rev. James Briscoe

Rev. James Briscoe was pastor at Mt. Moriah AME.

The day after the hanging of John Snowden for allegedly killing a white woman, Briscoe pointed out during a sermon the danger of being black in Annapolis. “You know that had I or you gone down to Second Street the day of the crime as Snowden did, I or you would now be in Snowden’s place. I am afraid to go out at night without my wife or some other person. Annapolis is not a safe place for colored people.” The Capital newspaper reported on his comments, but gave a different version: “Briscoe pointed out that had Snowden lived a clean life, he might not have been put to death... Not to judge whether guilt or innocence, but to point to errors of his ways to his people so that they might avoid the pitfalls which would bring them only dire trouble.”

Source: Hannah Joplin, “Life in a Black Community”

1920s: Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter as the head of the Annapolis Chapter of the Suffrage League.

Elizabeth Carter was the head of the Suffrage League. She pushed for voting rights for women in a movement that was dominated by white women.

In 1920, the first time women were allowed to vote for president, Carter and her chapter of the league’s effort helped advance a record turnout. Reports from the era indicate that the line for voting at the precinct on Clay Street was four blocks long.

Source: Hannah Joplin, “Life in a Black Community”

1930s: Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown was a teacher at Stanton School.

In 1938, Brown, along with her husband Philip, marched to Anne Arundel County Public Schools headquarters on Green Street to demand equal pay for black teachers. A 1939 lawsuit on behalf of Walter S. Mills, the longtime principal of Parole Elementary, argued by NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, resulted in a decision to force the county (and state) to pay the same salaries to black and white educators.  

Local factoid: Arguing for Anne Arundel County in the case was attorney Noah Hillman.

Source: Hannah Joplin, “Life in a Black Community”

 1940s: Wesley Brown

Wesley Brown was the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Brown, of Baltimore, was the first African American commissioned at the United States Naval Academy. Five others had come before him (as early as 1936), but none graduated/were commissioned.

Brown served at the Academy alongside future President Jimmy Carter. After his commissioning, Brown served as a civil engineer in the Navy. At the completion of his service in 1969, he joined the faculty of Howard University.

Source: Hannah Joplin, “Life in a Black Community”

 1950s: Eloise Richardson

Eloise Richardson was the first librarian of color in Anne Arundel County.

Richardson wore many hats in her decades as a prominent Annapolitan. She was president of the Annapolis branch of the National Council of Negro Women (founded by Mary McLeod Bethune). The members were all highly educated professionals. In 1952, they held a forum on local radio station WNAV to acquaint the community with their new organization. She was later a columnist for The Capital and later the Afro American, writing community columns. She later founded the patient library at Crownsville State Hospital.

Source: Janice Hayes Williams/The Capital (May 2014)

1960s: The Annapolis Five

The Annapolis Five helped to desegregate Annapolis restaurants after their 1960 sit in and arrest.

At the segregated Terminal Restaurant in 1960, five brave Annapolitans staged a sit-in to break the color barrier. Their actions helped to desegregate restaurants in the City. The five were arrested and charged $100 after police asked them to leave the restaurant that was affiliated with the local bus depot. They refused. The date was Nov. 25 1960. The site is currently The Graduate Hotel.   The protestors were three teachers and two businessmen, they were: Marita Carroll, Dr. Samuel P. Callahan Sr., Lacey McKinney, William “Lamb” Johnson, and Ethel Mae Thompson.

Source: Jack Lambert/The Capital (October 2013)

1970s: Aris T. Allen

Aris T Allen was the first African American to chair a state political party and the first to run for state-wide elected office.

Aris T. Allen, a physician in private practice, was first elected to the state legislature in 1972. Allen went on to become the first African American chair of the Maryland Republican Party.  He was also the first African American to run for statewide office in Maryland when he ran for Lt. Gov. in 1978. Allen had served as a pilot in the army in 1942 and was an Air Force Flight surgeon from 1953 to 1955.


1980s: John. T. Chambers

John T. Chambers was the first (and only) African American mayor in the City’s history. 

Chambers was appointed to the position upon the death of Mayor Gustav J. Akerland. Chambers is the only African American to have held the job of mayor in the City’s 300-plus year history. Chambers was originally appointed to his City Council seat in 1967, then won successive elections. His work included making the job of mayor full-time and spelling out the duties of the City’s chief executive. Chambers e passed rent control, placed a plaque at the foot of Main Street in honor of Alex Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte and more.

Source: and John-John Williams IV/Baltimore Sun (February 2011)

1990s: Cynthia Abney Carter

Cynthia Abney Carter was the first African American woman elected to the Annapolis City Council.

Alderwoman Carter completed her education at Sojourner Douglass College and jumped into community service, intent on improving the lives of underserved Annapolis residents. She served on boards and was an active member of Holy Temple Cathedral. One of the biggest issues she tackled was crime among youth. She realized she could tackle other civic challenges through legislative action. In 1997, she ran as a write-in candidate for Ward 6 City Council seat and won. She broke the glass ceiling for numerous Alderwomen that followed.

Source: Vikka Moldrem/The Arundel Patriot (May 2018)

2000s: Joseph Johnson

Joseph Johnson was the first African American

Police Chief for the City of Annapolis.

Chief Johnson stepped into the position of acting Chief in April of 1994. He was appointed as Chief of Police in December of the same year. Johnson concentrated on greater diversity throughout the department, with minority officers in the K-9 unit, Special Emergency Teams and traffic safety. He oversaw the installation of the first Mobile Data Terminals in patrol cars. He opened a new communications center and oversaw the department’s accreditation. Chief Johnson retired in 2008.

Source: Annapolis Police Department

2010s: Smith Price

Smith Price was a founder of Asbury United

Methodist Church in the early 18th Century. His remains were returned to Annapolis in 2019.

In 2019, the remains of what is believed to be Smith Price were reinterred after sitting on a shelf in a Calvert County museum for nearly four decades. Smith Price was one of the founders of the first African American Church in Annapolis in 1803: Asbury United Methodist. His remains were unearthed in the 1980s as part of “urban renewal” projects in the City. Historian Janice Hayes Williams recovered the remains from the museum and brought them back to Annapolis for a proper burial. Rest in peace.

Source: Selene San Felice/The Capital (November 2019)

2020s: DaJuan Gay

Alderman DaJuan Gay is the youngest City Council member in the history of Annapolis.

Alderman Gay grew up as a youth leader in the Boys and Girls Clubs of Annapolis. He graduated from Annapolis High School, then continued his post-secondary education at an HBCU (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). In 2019, at the age of 22, he was elected to represent the 6th Ward (and the youngest-alderman in the 300 years of our City). His election was a Special Election, the result of Ald. Shaneka Henson being appointed to the seat of the late speaker Mike Busch.  In January 2020, he was presented with the Morris Blum award at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner.