Thursday, June 18, 2020

Community Partner Highlight: Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC)

The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions is a long-standing Sotterley partner with like mission to preserve history and educate the public about African American history and culture in St. Mary’s County. It was founded in 1995 by the late Elmer Jefferson Brown, Sr., born in 1932 in Drayden, Maryland. UCAC also advocates for community health and education and highlights the contributions of African Americans to our county and community.

Trusted advisors, members of this organization help Sotterley to better tell its stories and more effectively interpret the lives of those African Americans that lived and worked at Sotterley both enslaved and free. UCAC and its members work to research and preserve history by collecting oral traditions and histories, and by providing resources to educators and the public to conduct research.

UCAC is also responsible for the conception, design, and funds that created the African American Monument at Freedom Park and the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Civil War Monument at Lancaster Park with interpretive signage.  The last remaining “Flat-top” military housing structure in Lancaster Park is now UCAC’s interpretive center and meeting place. UCAC and St. Mary’s County also have preserved and now interprets Dryden schoolhouse, used as a school for colored children during segregation. UCAC highlights these religious and cultural institutions that still exist and those extinct to remind us that these places and people within them were vital to African American culture and resilience through the decades after slavery, and then during segregation and Jim Crow.
Courtesy Historic Sotterley, photo 2019
St. Mary's County Juneteenth

UCAC has published the book, The Relentless Pursuit of Education, and has contributed to the film, With All Deliberate Speed. The book highlights stories and photographs of community members that experienced segregation and the desire for education. The film tells the story of the desegregation of Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County between 1958 and 1972. This film was written and created by Merideth Taylor, in partnership with UCAC and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

UCAC is also responsible for St. Mary’s County’s annual Juneteenth celebration. In 2020, sadly, the celebration is another casualty of Covid-19, but it will be back stronger than ever in 2021. If you do not know about or have never heard of Juneteenth, please go to this link to find out more.  
Lincoln emancipated enslaved people in rebellious states with the Proclamation, but it took federal troops to enforce emancipation after the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, Major- General Granger entered Galveston, Texas and announced that slaves were free. This has evolved over the decades and now is celebrated all over the country.

The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX) 21 June 1865 p.1,
accessed Jun 18, 2020,

To find out more about the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC), please visit their website at  Historic Sotterley is grateful for our partnership with this important and vital community non-profit organization.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     J. Pirtle