Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Black History in Calvert County

There was a great story in the Calvert Recorder last week about Joyce Freeland, local past President of the NAACP.   It outlines her life growing up poor on a farm in Calvert County, attending segregated schools, seeking treatment in a segregated hospital, leaving for a while, then returning to her home community.  http://bit.ly/2EJ95ra   Joyce Freeland is active in the Closing the Gap Coalition and is also a frequent substitute teacher for us.  We sure appreciate her continued service to the schools. 

The month of February is Black History Month - designated as a time to recognize the contributions of African Americans to American History.   The organization which would became known as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History inaugurated the first formal acknowledgement of African-Americans' place in U.S. history by designating the week that included February 12 as "Negro History Week" in 1926.    It was first acknowledged at the national level by President Gerald Ford.  President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan followed suit and in 1986 Congress passed legislation declaring February as Black History month and called for a Presidential Proclamation in support. 

It is also important to note that Canada also celebrates in February.  The United Kingdom and The Netherlands have the similar events in October.

As I stand here in my office in a building that was once the Brooks School – the high school for African American students in Calvert County, I’m reflecting on the stories that have been shared to me by those with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years.  Especially those that were a part of the transition to integrated schools.  The last segregated class of the William Sampson Brooks High School was 1966.   The community where we live managed to keep children separated and educated by color a full 12 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.  Why did it take so long?  I need to hear more stories from those who went to school here.

Kevin Howard, Supervisor of Human Resources and a transplant like me, just shared with me a book titled African Americans of Calvert County by William Poe.  I’ve ordered my own copy, but the initial description of the book indicates that Calvert County is home to one of the oldest African American communities in the United States - since back in the 17th Century.  At one time, 60% of the county population was African American.    Seems like it should be required reading for someone like me. 

I look forward to reading more of this planned series in the Calvert Recorder.  All of us as humans are walking story books.  I want to hear their stories.  I want to better understand my adopted home.