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Washington County African American Heritage Brochure

Washington County African American Heritage Brochure

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau has announced that a new Washington County African American Heritage Brochure has been produced. The guide lists many historical sites, and outlines the historical significance of the rich African American history in the county. The brochure is available for visitors and residents alike.
The guide was produced with assistance from the Washington County Historical Society, the Washington County Free Library, the African American Historical Association, and with photographic assistance from Ron Lytle Photography.
As the brochure states, "There are many historic African American sites in Washington County, Maryland. From the earliest days of the 18th Century, the lives, the sacrifices, and the contributions of African Americans have left an unmistakable impression on Washington County."
One of the sites that the brochure includes is the Rockland Plantation, which in the early 1800's was home to Washington County's largest slave-holder, Frisby Tilghman. One of the country's most well known escaped slaves was James W.C. Pennington, formerly known as James Pembrook. After escaping from the Tilghman farm, he later became the first African American Presbyterian minister, and the first published author of a history of African Americans in the United States.
Because Washington County was so narrow, escaping slaves often sought to cross through Maryland here, en route to freedom in the North. The brochure includes the Nathan Williams family, and the free-black farmer's efforts at assisting escaping slaves. Williams farmed the land in and around Fort Frederick.
The cover design includes a photograph of William O. Wilson, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the 1890 Battle of Wounded Knee. Wilson is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
The guide also includes sites in Sharpsburg, Hagerstown, Funkstown, Big Pool, and Clear Spring. Additionally, the brochure has been excerpted into a web page, and can be found on the CVB's web site: To connect directly to the web page, go to:
The brochure and the web page were designed by the award-winning Hagerstown design firm pm2 studios. The project took several months to research, collect photographs, design, print, and convert to a web site. It is available at the Downtown Hagerstown Visitor Welcome Center, and is being distributed to CVB member businesses, and to the Maryland Visitor Welcome Centers throughout the state. The brochure is also being used to help market to African American meeting groups, many of whom have a keen interest in coming to Washington County because of Antietam Battlefield and its connection to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Kennedy Farm (staging base for John Brown and his raiding party), and also to visit the Doleman Black History Museum.
According to CVB President Tom Riford, "From what we've been told, this is the first time this sort of brochure has been produced in Washington County. This was a project that included the efforts of many people. Our hats are off to Ron Lytle and Brian Robinson. They both helped a great deal. Mindy Marsden of the Washington County Historical Society was wonderful for double-checking and doing a lot of research. She also unearthed old photos, as well as the escaped slave announcement which we reprinted in the brochure." Brian Robinson is the great-grandson of Walter Harmon, who owned and managed the blacks'-only hotel in Hagerstown, known as the Harmon Hotel. Among the guests of the hotel over the years, included baseball great Willie Mays. Riford said, "Brian was a good resource, and he and Ron Lytle helped see this project through. Ron Lytle personally visited scores of sites in Washington County, and produced hundreds of photographs during the project." Riford said that the brochure would eventually be redesigned and reprinted, as more information is researched and collected.
Tourism agencies throughout the Mid Atlantic have increased marketing efforts to African American meeting groups, a growing segment of the travel market. Brochures that highlight African American history have been designed by top tier communities, and many CVB's are running ads in African American meeting planner publications, along with other niche publications. Other larger communities in Maryland have produced local African American heritage brochures, while Hagerstown-Washington County was the first in Western Maryland. Baltimore, Annapolis, Howard County, and Montgomery County have recently published guides, and the State of Maryland has also produced a statewide resource. With the June 2005 opening of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, there is renewed interest in the history of African Americans throughout Maryland. A new museum and cultural center dedicated to Harriet Tubman is planned for the slave-era hero's birthplace in Cambridge, on the Eastern Shore.
According to the new brochure, Western Maryland had far fewer slaves than the rest of the state. In 1820, 14% of Washington County's population was enslaved; Maryland's average however was 26%. By 1860, before the beginning of the Civil War, there were more free African Americans than slaves in Washington County. By 1864, slavery was abolished in Maryland. One of the most well known battles of the Civil War was fought in Washington County, and according to historians the Battle of Antietam was a turning point in our nation's history. The battle helped President Abraham Lincoln rethink opportunities for peace, and he issued the Emancipation Proclamation following the battle, which led the way to eventually freeing slaves throughout the entire United States. While no African American Union troops fought in the battle, the effects on the lives of African Americans are significant.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau funded the design and production of the new African American Heritage brochure. More than ten thousand copies were made in its first printing. The Hagerstown-Washington County CVB is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose goals include helping to attract visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County. The CVB helps to create vibrant growth for the local economy by promoting, developing, and expanding the local visitor industry.

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