CENTREVILLE — The Maryland Museum of Women’s History announced on Juneteenth that it will be abandoning the name of its foundation, the Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory Foundation, after discovering the pro-slavery sentiments of its namesake.
“We did not know or comprehend the depth of her attachment to slavery when we founded the organization,” a press release from the museum stated.
“It was not until we began working on our exhibit these past 10 months that we discovered her virulent pro-slavery writings, her enormous support for slavery, and her belief in its necessity and rewards.”
The writings, from a first edition copy of “Colonial Families and Their Descendants,” will still be featured as part of the museum’s first major exhibit, “Enslavement to Emancipation: Voices Not Heard,” but the facility is adamant about separating itself from Emory.
“We cannot take and accept her name,” said Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin, the museum’s president and CEO. “We have to divest ourselves completely of that.”
The museum will now be registered under The Maryland Museum of Women’s History.
While this redaction is the first effort by the museum to distance itself from the Emory legacy, it is not the first time the facility has bumped into issues involving the Emory family. The foundation initially entered a 24-year lease of Emory’s historic home, the Bloomfield Manor on what is now White Marsh Park, as the location for the museum. But Goodwin had to abandon those plans last summer after restrictions on the property from the museum’s primary funding source, the Maryland Historic Trust, led to disagreements with County Administrator Todd Mohn.
The museum, which is not yet open to the public, is now located on Turpins Lane in Centreville, according to its website.
Emory wrote her book towards the end of the 19th century in an effort to repurchase her manor, which she lost in 1893. She accomplished that goal soon after her genealogy book was published by the Baltimore Sun in 1900.
Despite the Emory family’s part in chronicling the county’s past – Mary’s son, Frederick, wrote the early history of Queen Anne’s County – the museum has severe doubts about the validity of their accounts, especially as they pertain to slavery.
According to the museum’s press release, Frederick Emory’s history only mentions slavery once, detailing a slave who was forced into guiding British forces to Queenstown. And in “Colonial Families,” the museum uncovered a severe discrepancy in its description of a Reed’s Creek slave who served in the Union Army.
Whereas Emory wrote the slave, named “Pif” in the book with quotations, ran away from the plantation, a receipt from the Union Army to “Pif’s” master verified the slave’s enlistment into the army. According to Goodwin, “Pif” was put into the army by his master in order to protect Emory’s “precious house.”
The museum’s president suggested Emory’s falsehoods concerning “Pif” stemmed from the author’s “deep favor of slavery” and general distaste for Union forces.
“Much of his story is total fabrication,” the museum announced. “Apart from being an out and out lie, it is deliberately demeaning.”