ALEXANDRIA, VA – A new project has been funded to map African American Historic Sites in the Chesapeake Ba,y and brings together Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to make it happen.
With a common goal of telling a fuller American story, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay; the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; and the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership will collaborate to map and identify sites and landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region significant to African American history and culture. The project will map African American cultural sites in an effort to support their conservation and to enable the three states and their localities to fully consider them in their land use and development plans.
“The role of the African American watermen in the development of the fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay, from oystering and crabbing to processing and boatbuilding, cannot be overstated. As many of the places associated with this legacy vanish from the landscape, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources welcomes the opportunity to document this important aspect of our region’s past,” says Julie V. Langan, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The initial funding, a $200,000 award, is provided by the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. Additional support, bringing the total project value to $400,000, will be provided by Maryland state funds from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnerships Program and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and by the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
The goal is for this project to lay the groundwork for future mapping efforts for African American historic resources by assessing the effectiveness of different project methodologies. This multi-state partnership will undertake unique pilot projects in each of the three states to identify sites and landscapes of relevance to African American history and culture, gathering baseline GIS data on these historic places. Once collected, this data will be publicly available through state-level and Chesapeake Conservation Partnership Cultural Resource Information Systems to inform land use and planning decisions. The project will also be guided by an advisory committee of professionals dedicated to preserving African American history.
As home to some of America’s first colonies, the Chesapeake Bay watershed region is already known to have a significant meaning to African American culture. Many major tobacco plantations were located there, as were many stops on the Underground Railroad. It was the place where Harriet Tubman and both Frederick Douglass and his first wife were enslaved. It includes many battlegrounds of the Civil War, as well as places of notable activism in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Generations of Black Americans have made their living from the waters of the Bay and have also used special places along the Bay and throughout the region for recreation.
Historic sites and landscapes important to people of color are widely underrepresented in documentation and conservation priorities. This work will take one small step towards addressing that deficit.