Holding on to Heritage: Preserving Baltimore County's African American Cultural Heritage
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Type of Work241 p.
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
RightsTo view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at email@example.com or (410) 337-6075.
SubjectsAfrican American neighborhoods -- Conservation and restoration -- Maryland -- Baltimore
Historic preservation -- Citizen participation
Historic preservation -- Theses
Baltimore County’s forty historic African American communities came into existence based on Maryland’s history of coexisting slave and free black populations and the resulting legal and social segregation. In this environment, African Americans established communities. The existence of these communities and their structures preserves the heritage of the struggles and achievements of their residents. Development and societal changes are altering these historic settings. Many have already disappeared, leaving few traces of their existence. Those that remain are important for what they can teach us about this largely undocumented part of Maryland’s history. This thesis researched answers to how this cultural and physical heritage can be preserved. This thesis discovered that preservation efforts are most successful when a historic community structure is the focal point and that the segregation era schools have often fulfilled this function. It also showed that successful and adaptive use of these preserved structures involving the entire multicultural community is critical to continued viability. The thesis found there is a significant level of interest within the existing African American communities as well as governmental resources, historic designations, and tax incentives available to help preserve this cultural heritage. However, residents of the historically African American areas remain underserved and ineligible for many of the protections and benefits because of a lack of knowledge and leadership. Leadership and community involvement are needed to overcome this deficit. This research found that a network of residents and descendants of prior residents can be a particular strength from which to draw leadership; and that there are many methods to involve community including partnerships with local universities and museums, grant funded publications of oral histories, reunions, real estate networking, cultural tourism and festivals. Finally, developing methods and funding to assist African American community residents to implement these strategies is an important part of assuring the continuing preservation of Baltimore County’s African American cultural heritage.