African-American Heritage in the Historic District of Annapolis

During the 19th century, African-Americans comprised one-third of the population in Annapolis. Prior to the Civil War, Maryland had more free African-American citizens than any other state, approximate 43%. In Annapolis, about 400 of the city's 4000 inhabitants were free blacks and, of those, forty owned real property. Their legacy survives in written records and in cultural resources throughout the city's historic district and is revealed on maps, at archaeological sites, and in the surviving buildings.

Historic Buildings in the Historic District

Since 1992, the City of Annapolis' Historic Preservation Commission and the Maryland Historical Trust have sponsored an intensive survey of historic buildings within the district to document in full previously uninvestigated properties, determine the development and character of neighborhoods, and identify African-American sites and geographic neighborhoods within the historic district. While the city and state recognize the many important African-American sites and neighborhoods throughout Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, the criteria for this survey limits it to standing structures within the historic district. Initial results, while not yet comprehensive, show clusters of African-American residences integrated into several neighborhoods throughout the city before and after the Civil War. The Clay and West Street areas had the highest number of black households. However, Market, Duke of Gloucester, Cornhill, Pinkney, East and Fleet Streets provided a variety of housing for the city's black population.

The survey findings confirm demographic studies and complement the results of recent archaeological investigations that preceded major construction projects. These range from the Gott's Court Garage site the Anne Arundel County Courthouse block. Originally a small development of rental rowhouses between West and Northwest Streets, Gott's Court was constructed by 1908, reflecting the increased demand for housing among the black population. The Clay Street neighborhood to the west provided the principal religious, educational and recreational facilities for the African-American community. It included the Stanton School on West Washington Street, Asbury Methodist Church on West Street, St. Phillips Episcopal Church on Northwest Street, and Mt. Moriah a.m. E. Church on Franklin Street. Fraternal organizations, such as the 130-year-old Universal Lodge Number 14, F.&A.M., also established homes here. Mt. Moriah is now the Banneker-Douglass Museum, the official repository of African - American material culture for Maryland. Built in 1874, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and dedicated as the Banneker-Douglass Museum in 1984.

Historic Neighborhoods

Other late 19th century and early 20th century neighborhoods appear on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. An enclave on Newman Street near St. Mary's had its own school. Bellis Court occupied land south of the County Courthouse, close to Mt. Moriah Church. Like Gott's Court and areas near the Naval Academy, these simple frame tenements were demolished as the office needs of a growing government expanded.

At Duke of Gloucester and Market Streets near City Hall, several prominent black families acquired property, raised families and pursued professions. From this neighborhood, they contributed to the growth of their community and its culture. As late as the 1920s, a violin instructor, a chiropodist, a florist and a caterer continued to represent the black professional community in homes on Market Street, reflecting a trend begun in the mid-19th century when two "free persons of color," William H. Butler and John Maynard, purchased property on Duke of Gloucester and Market Streets.