African Americans in Maryland

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African Americans in Maryland are residents of the state of Maryland who are of African-American ancestry. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 30% of the state's population.[1]

Early history[edit]

Slaveship diagram

The founding of the British colony of St. Mary's City was in the early 1630s. Soon the first African slaves were brought to the new Province of Maryland by 1642 to develop the economy in a similar way to Virginia, with tobacco being the commodity crop, which was labor-intensive.[2] In 1755, about 40% of Maryland's population was African Americans and most of them enslaved. The populations were concentrated in the Tidewater counties around Chesapeake Bay where tobacco was grown.[3]

Changes in the main commodity crops to others less labor-intensive after the American Revolutionary War led numerous slaveholders to free their slaves before or at the time of their death. As a result, the percentage of blacks that were free grew from less than 1% to 10%[when?] in the Upper South. By the time of the American Civil War a bit more than 49% of African Americans in Maryland were free.[4] The boys, denied education, were torn from their parents and sold South, to their lives as farm animals in the growing new territories of Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. Marylanders and Virginians viewed themselves as breeders, centers of slave production, for export to other states.

Beginning in 1816, a new way to deal with the growing numbers of freed slaves began in Maryland with the Maryland State Colonization Society. Its purpose was to form a colony of freed slaves back into Africa by forming Republic of Maryland in what is today, Liberia. This experiment had limited success as part of the abolitionist movement. However, the rapid expansion of the cotton industry in the Deep South after the invention of the cotton gin greatly increased demand for slave labor, and the Southern states continued as slave societies. Maryland was one of the key states in the Underground Railroad with cities such as Baltimore and Cambridge focal points for transported the fugitives further north. Slavery in Maryland officially ended with the writing of the new Maryland Constitution of 1864; however, emancipation did not mean equality as the franchise was restricted to "white" males. Notably, the Maryland legislature refused to ratify both the 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship rights on former slaves, and the 15th Amendment, which gave the vote to African Americans.

Civil War to civil rights[edit]

The Civil War impacted the African Americans in Maryland in several ways with a few large battles and many smaller skirmishes fought in Maryland, but also with the status of the enslaved being bought further into question. Though emancipation would not begin until near the end of the war in Maryland, the possibility for escaped slaves increased during the war and the numbers of contraband swelled with many seeking refuge in D.C.[5] The beginning of the war saw African Americans pressed into service for manual labor in Union Army camps and building defenses throughout the state, both free men and escape slaves; but others chose to travel to states where they were allowed to enlist. The Slave codes were replaced by the Black codes in restricting the rights of African Americans until the Jim Crow laws took effect to limit civil rights protections and continue the codified segregation that lasted until the mid-1900s.

Education for Negro children was mandated in 1872, but these Negro schools were to be under the control of the existing county and district boards which already had major issues in the education of white children adequately.[6] Maryland was required to pay black and white teachers equally by 1941, based on a case argued by Thurgood Marshall. In 1955, schools in Maryland were forced to start the process of integration with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and this process not completed until 1967 with mixed success.[7][8][9]

Lynchings such as those of Joseph Vermillion, Michael Green, Matthew Williams, William Burns and Stephen Williams were not unheard of and were used for intimidation affect, with the last recorded lynching occurring in 1933 in Princess Anne, Maryland. Laws criminalizing marriage and sex between whites and blacks were enacted in the colonial era Maryland, but were only repealed just before the Supreme Court ruled on Loving v. Virginia in 1967; further reinforced the segregation in the state.

The 13th Amendment ended slavery and the 14th Amendment extended full rights of citizenship to African Americans, the continuation of support for Jim Crow and segregation laws led to protests in which many African-Americans were violently injured out in the open at lunchroom counters, buses, polling places and local public areas. These protests did not eviscerate racism, but it forced racism to become used in more coded or metaphorical language instead of being used out in the open.[10]

Civil Rights era[edit]

Following the example of student sit-ins as those in Greensboro, NC, by the spring of 1960, students from Morgan State College began their own sit-in in Baltimore department stores restaurants.[11] While such protests continued in Maryland, by 1961, the Freedom Riders began rolling through the state as they headed further into the deep South, from Washington D.C. The 1960s continues with rallies, marches, protests and riots with the largest of and most violent happening in 1968 upon hearing of the death of Martin Luther King jr. in 1968. Notable among the unrest is Cambridge riot of 1963, Cambridge riot of 1967 and Baltimore riot of 1968.

Notable African Americans of Maryland[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maryland QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". 2011. Archived from the original on February 7, 2015. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Chapelle, Suzanne Ellery Greene, p.24, Maryland: A History of Its People Retrieved August 10, 2010
  3. ^ John Mack Faragher, ed., The Encyclopedia of Colonial and Revolutionary America (New York: Facts on File, 1990), p. 257
  4. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619–1877, Hill and Wang, 1993, pp. 81-82, p. 146
  5. ^ Spivack, Miranda S. (September 13, 2013). "The not-quite-Free State: Maryland dragged its feet on emancipation during Civil War". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ "Origin". Maryland State Dept. of Education.
  7. ^ ""Are We Satisfied?": The Baltimore Plan for School Desegregation". THE MARYLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY LIBRARY.
  8. ^ "Historic African American Schools in St. Mary's County, Maryland". Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions. Archived from the original on 2017-12-08. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  9. ^ "Report on School Desegregation in 14 Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland Counties, 1966" (PDF). University of Maryland.
  10. ^ Villeneuve, Todd. "Racial Violence - Modern Era - Intro". Retrieved 2017-04-17.
  11. ^ August, Meir (1992). A White Scholar and the Black Community 1945-1965. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 117–125.

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