From Enslavement to Emancipation

CENTREVILLE — The Maryland Museum of Women’s History is proud to announce its first major exhibit, “Enslavement to Emancipation: Voices Not Heard,“ which will run Jan. 15 to Feb. 28, 2021.

“Due to COVID-19 the exhibit will begin first as a virtual exhibit. Hopefully by this summer, it will be up in the special small building we believe was used by the enslaved farm manager during the Civil War,” said Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin, museum founder. “The exhibit will open on the weekend of Martin Luther King holiday. It will continue until the end of February for African American History Month.”

The heart of the exhibit is about five major plantations that surround Centreville: Reed’s Creek, Peace and Plenty, Bloomfield, Poplar Grove and Locust Hill, and the enslaved persons who maintained the houses and the fields. The location of the Maryland Museum of Women’s History is, in fact, located on the land of one of those five plantations, Locust Hill.

All five plantations were connected by family and by dedication to the use of enslaved persons and maintaining that enslavement until Emancipation. What happened at the time of Emancipation will be Part II of the exhibit coming in 2022: “Emancipation to Jim Crow,” which is when the museum hopes to tell the stories of some of those who were emancipated from the five plantations.

“We do have partial information on some of the enslaved when they were emancipated by the Maryland State Constitution in 1864 and that will also be part of this exhibit,” Goodwin said.

“We need to learn about the divisions we know nothing of, especially about the reality of slavery,” Goodwin continued. “It is uncomfortable to discuss, but telling the stories, seeing the documents: families ripped from each other, often with no notice; individuals traded, treated as if their lives did not matter; and learning how the owners really felt; those stories need to be known and the documents seen. Still the story of slavery is at times an uplifting one: Pride! Resilience! Determination!”

Maryland’s enslaved were not emancipated by Lincoln’s proclamation. Maryland voted on the new Constitution certified by Governor Augustus Bradford and it went into effect on Nov. 1, 1864.

“Yet to this day it is not a recognized holiday in Maryland. Sen. Arthur Ellis of Charles County has a bill to make Nov. 1 a recognized holiday in this coming legislative session,” Goodwin said. “The Maryland Museum of Women’s History celebrates this bill and given that it is long overdue, we hope every legislator supports it so it can pass unanimously.”

The announcement of where and how to see the exhibit can be found on the museum website: https://marylandmuseumofwomenshistory.org/.

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