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In celebration of Dorchester County’s rich African American heritage, the “Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester” Oct. 13-14 will bring attention to little known county historic structures that once served as dwelling houses, churches or other cultural and utilitarian uses in the lives of African Americans. This project will feature Joseph McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project and “Inalienable Rights,” a living history troupe representing enslaved African Americans of the 19th century. Combined participants will sleep overnight at the Bayley House Slave Cabin in Cambridge, Maryland, and then in the Handsell Slave Chamber in Vienna, Maryland.

With an impressive group of partners, the project will also provide an opportunity for the public to have discussions guided by members of Coming to the Table about the history and legacy of enslavement in the United States. The weekend includes multiple events at various sites around the county, discussions led by members of the National Coming to the Table organization, living history re enactors, music and other historic demonstrations suitable for visitors of all ages. Both Friday evening and Saturday events are FREE and open to the public.

  • The event will begin Friday evening October 13 with a “Candlelight Remembrance” at the Cambridge Court House and Bayley Slave Cabin. This event will include introductory presentations and live vocal performances based on Negro Spirituals by soloists Karen Somerville and Melissa Wise Slacum. Ms. Somerville has performed widely from New York through Maryland and is best known for her jazz interpretations and historical performances of songs relating to black history. Mrs. Slacum is local to Dorchester and has performed for many years at local events and venues. Guest attending the Friday evening event will be given battery operated “candles” to light as the names of once enslaved individuals are read by both descendants to those enslaved and slave holders. A procession of participants and attendees will proceed from the Court House to the Bayley Slave Cabin at the privately owned Bayley House on High Street, where the event will conclude with more songs and inspirational words. Refreshments will follow.
  • On Saturday, Oct. 14, a living history event at Handsell, a historic home undergoing restoration, will feature two presentations and discussions (morning and afternoon) led by members of Other planned activities for Saturday at Handsell include presentations by “Inalienable Rights,” an African American living history troupe, representing early African American crafts people, story tellers and food historians.
  • The public will have the opportunity to see cooking demonstrations in the Handsell Kitchen over open fire, where both free and enslaved people of color once worked and lived. Jerome Bias will be interpreting an African American cook and demonstrating his talents at the newly restored Kitchen cook fireplace. One reason Mr. Bias sleeps overnight in slave dwellings and cooks at the living history programs is so children and youth will see their ancestors—will see enslaved people—as human beings with fully rounded lives, not just suffering stereotypes.
  • Other living history re enactors will include music, storytelling and a 19th century “laundress,” Roberta Perkins.
  • Another Highlight of the day at Handsell will be two presentations by Karen Somerville and her group “Sombarkin.” Karen Somerville is a recording artist and producer performing gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, folk, and the arrangements for the acappella trio Sombarkin’ (sum-bar-kin), a group she has organized.
  • Two chicks Catering Truck will provide food and drinks at Handsell. The Chicone Village will be lively as representatives from the Pocomoke Indian Nation and Philip Goldsborough, a Nanticoke descendant will demonstrate Native Crafts. Dawn Manyfeathers of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape will be making Native Fry Bread.
  • During the day on Saturday, The Harriet Tubman Organization will escort a morning bus tour of Dorchester County African American historic sites which will begin and end at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and will include a stop at Handsell for the Coming to the Table talk. The bus tour will help promote Dorchester County Tourism and highlight important African American historic sites.

Slave Dwelling Project Comes to Dorchester is considered an educational event, brought to the public to increase the community’s knowledge of our local history and heritage, historic preservation and the contributions made by little know individuals from the past.

The event is brought to the public by the following Partners and Sponsors: Harriet Tubman Organization, Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, Slave Dwelling Project, Coming to the Table, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Dorchester Arts Center, Elks Lodge #223, 106.3 The Heat WCEM FM, Healing Hands Animal Hospital and The Drug Store, Hurlock, MD
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