Monday, November 3, 2014

Middle Passage Marker Placement Ceremony Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Maryland Emancipation

Prayer of Unity
All praise to the Divine in us.
Praise to our ancestors and elders.
If a person does not know the past,
then the present
and the future are not knowable.
Let the spirit of our ancestors
help bring us closer
in unity and to our divinity.

In remembrance of all who perished and those who survived the Middle Passage, Historic Sotterley Plantation held a special ceremony to place the commemorative Port Marker as a permanent structure on site. On this special day, religious leaders, dignitaries, and over 100 visitors gathered in the Historic Barn to remember and honor ancestors and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Maryland Emancipation.

“It has been an honor to be part of the Middle Passage Marker Project,” stated Nancy Easterling, Historic Sotterley’s Executive Director. “As a site that had slavery for over 160 years, it is both our duty and obligation to acknowledge this part of our history.  We must honestly address difficult subjects when they are part of our story, because we cannot pick simply the easy topics to interpret.  This gathering and ceremony was a time to both acknowledge and to heal.” 

The opening remarks by Dr. Janice Walthour of the St. Mary’s County NAACP set the tone for what was a reverent, spiritual, and deeply moving event. With high winds whipping outside, she reminded all to listen closely for the voices of the ancestors upon the wind. Ann Chin, Executive Dircetor of the Middle Passage Ceremomies and Port Markers Project commended Historic Sotterley for not only presenting our history honestly, but for being the first recognized Maryland slave port in Maryland to place a Port Marker. Sotterley’s Education Director Jeanne Pirtle spoke about slavery in very real terms, reiterating frequently that “it was wrong.” Students Katelyn Kovach and Dartanyen Saunders read the list of African Nations, names of 1729 Sotterley enslaved, and those who were emancipated in 1864. Sharing the important history of ending slavery, addressing difficult topics, remembering the significance of the Civil Rights Movement, and shining the light on the future were:
Nathaniel Scroggins  - President of the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions
Anne Harrison - Patuxent Friends
Michael Brown – Elder, St. Mary’s County Church of Christ
Rork Brown - Director of Religious Education of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church
Dr. Tuajuanda Jordon – President, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
In the spirit of celebration, all enjoyed the gospel selections offered by the inspirational St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Choir. Authentic African dance performed by “Spiritual Creations” honored the culture and experience of the African people, with the magnificent drum call and dance drumming by Kevin and Juann Silhead.
Braving the blustery elements, the group proceeded down Rolling Road just past the original 1830’s Slave Cabin to view the Port Marker. Here, 150 years later, we celebrated what became a turning point in our history as a state, as a community, and as a people.
“This history is important to acknowledge, learn, and preserve because it is relevant to our lives and struggles regarding racial equality and opportunity today,” stated Jeanne Pirtle, Education Director of Historic Sotterley. “It is everyone’s responsibility to tell the story. Every person can make a difference!”
Historic Sotterley Plantation is part of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, a non-profit organization that is helping to discover and recognize middle passage sites. Sotterley served as a trans-Atlantic arrival site in the early 18th century. James Bowles, owner of the then 2,000 acre plantation, was an agent of the Royal African Company. Bowles ordered slaves to be bought along the Gold and Windward Coasts of Africa and shipped to his plantation on the Patuxent River. 
On November 1, 1864, slavery was finally abolished in Maryland. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those in bondage in Maryland, a slave-holding Union state. Emancipation was accomplished by the Maryland State Constitution of 1864, not popular with a large portion of the voting public. But with the final votes of Maryland’s Union soldiers, the state constitution was ratified and 165 years of slavery at this plantation came to an end. 


This Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project has the mission of identifying all middle passage ports, sponsoring remembrance ceremonies, and installing historical markers at 175 sites in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe, officially designating the Atlantic Ocean as a sacred burial ground of African ancestors. A marker is placed today at Sotterley Plantation to remember the victims of the middle passage and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Sotterley was a landing site for the trade on the Patuxent River in Maryland. The marker is placed so that people may remember and honor ancestors and their contributions.
The program which took place 
on Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Nancy Easterling ~ Executive Director, Historic Sotterley Plantation

Description and Purpose of Ceremony

Janice Walthour ~ St. Mary’s County NAACP

Ann Chinn
Executive Director, Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project

Jeanne Pirtle ~ Education Director, Historic Sotterley Plantation

African Nations 

Read by students Katelyn Kovach and Dartanyen Saunders

Spiritual Creations

Tremontenia Morgan (Mama T), Founder

Enslaved 1729

Read by Katelyn and Dartanyen


Nathaniel Scroggins
President, United Committee for Afro-American Contributions

Anne Harrison ~ Patuxent Friends

Michael Brown ~ Elder, St. Mary’s County Church of Christ

Rork Brown ~ Education Director,
St. Peters Claver Catholic Church, St. Inigoes, MD

Music Selections

St. Peter’s Clavier Catholic Church Choir ~ Roy  Johnson, Director


Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan ~ President, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Emancipated 1864

Read by Katelyn and Dartanyen

Final Words

Ann Chinn and Nancy Easterling


Nana Kofi Asiedu Ofori, Akan Priest 

Our Sincere Thanks to:

Eve Love, Genealogist

Holli Fabbri, teacher and Katelyn Kovach, student,
Chesapeake Public Charter School, Great Mills, MD 

Dartanyen Saunders, student, St. John’s Catholic School, Hollywood, MD

Dancers ~ Rosa Long, Vicki J. Clark, Bernadette T. Kelly-Nanton, Jewell Wilson,
Jimille Figaro, and Tremontenia Morgan

Drummers ~ Juann Silhead and Kevin Silhead

St. Peters Claver Choir Members

Dr. Fran Hawkins for her help and support.

Natalie Proctor ~ Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians

No comments:

Post a Comment