Maryland dig seeks proof of first free black community
Easton, Md. — Archaeology students have been sifting through a little patch of ground on Maryland’s Eastern Shore this summer, seeking evidence that it was home to the nation’s first free African-American community.
Historians say hundreds of free blacks once lived in the area, while plantations flourished with hundreds of black slaves not far away.
The students from the University of Maryland, College Park, and Morgan State University have been digging behind what is now the Women’s Club of Talbot County. The building, part of which dates to at least 1793, was home to three free non-white residents, according to the 1800 Census.
“We also know that by around 1790 there were a few free African Americans who were actually purchasing property in this neighborhood,” said Stefan Woehlke, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland who has been working at the site. “And so we’re excavating here, one, to figure out what their lives were like and also to better understand the community more broadly in order to help support the claim that this is the oldest free African-American community in the United States.”