Documenting African American Heritage and Culture in Western Maryland

Presentation Abstract:

Working with the overriding question, “How do we build community capacity to shape a positive future for Appalachia?” Appalachian Teaching Project participants at Frostburg State University partnered with the newly established Jane Gates Heritage House board members to show how a fuller understanding of Appalachian culture and history, which recognizes the deep legacy of African American heritage, can help to overcome racial division and forge a renewed sense of community cohesiveness in western Maryland and the surrounding region. The value of having a regional center dedicated to chronicling African American history largely depends on the area’s willingness to recognize the contributions western Maryland’s African American community has made in shaping the region. To that end, this fall, FSU students learned about Brownsville, the historic African American community displaced by the establishment of Frostburg State University; participated in the area’s first annual Allegany County African American Heritage Weekend, documenting and interviewing participants in a Poetry Jam, and capturing footage from the County’s Emancipation Celebration Event; and began conducting interviews with several residents of the region.