Until the Lion tells his side of the story….

This post is an urging of people to record their stories.

For years I’ve been involved in a variety of historical projects, some involving collecting oral histories and helping to document some of them. Other projects have been histories of neighborhoods, of people, and of topics such as segregation, mob violence, and more. I’ve been invited to be involved in several projects memorializing history, such as historical markers, walking/driving tours, and talks. Much of it, though not all, involved difficult historical topics, and I have encountered many who simply don’t want to talk or write about the difficult histories of their lives.

Complicating these projects is me being white; how can I encourage people to talk about how they were affected by histories that they’d rather forget and not discussed. And often, I am at a loss to explain it, or even believe it, myself.

 

 

But I found the best reason from a proverb.  I don’t recall reading it before. Recently, I was looking back on the history of Rosewood, Florida. In the last decades, that history, called the Rosewood Massacre, became widely known through interviews, writings, a CBS story by Ed Bradley, and a movie dramatizing the story. I too had heard about Rosewood along with others, but time passed and recently I looked back, trying to find out more about one of those who had survived the annihilation of the town, the murders, and the aftermath.

The context of the use of the proverb, on the website of the Real Rosewood Foundation, was about the fires set to destroy the buildings covering up evidence of “how many were actually killed, not reportedly killed.” My guess is that this was secondary to the total destruction of the African American community so that it could never be used as so again. But it was the Zimbabwean proverb that gave the best reason to record the difficult histories, that “until the Lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” It is so important that history isn’t recorded and written by only half the people affected. It doesn’t matter how the storyteller might be perceived or judged; what matters is that the story gets told.

In the case of Rosewood, there were survivors around when the story came to the attention of writers after about 50 years of the history forcibly forgotten, survivors who could talk about it. But it is just as important for descendants to document their families’ histories — the proud and the difficult. This too is not restricted to only distant history. Whenever I think back to those who graced me so generously with their stories, I remember being upset with myself for urging them to discuss difficult topics. But I’ve also been at a loss for words when asked why delve into difficult history, whatever the topic.  Now, the next time I am asked why does it matter to rehash history, I will resurrect this proverb.

 

Linda Duyer

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Posted in Uncategorized

Death threats over liquor snitching?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know the outcome of this 1924 case, but the article of December 6th of that year alone was stunning. When we look back at the history of lynching as reported (usually erroneously and certainly one-sidedly), the stories were usually of alleged murder or sexual assault. In this case, the reasons for the threats of lynching are less clear, but certainly not for the two usually cited alleged offenses. So, it’s a bit chilling that white anger could rise to the same level regardless of the perceived offense. I write about both Salisbury and Snow Hill history, so this one left me sadly shaking my head.

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Maryland, People

A James, Dorman, Marshall, and Ballard Family History

Congratulations to Norma James-McCandless for publishing her family history. I was proud being invited to her family reunion not long ago when she described the family history while the book was still a work in progress. She and family members were creating something special, and I know it took an immense amount of time and effort. I was there to describe the history of the murder of George Armwood, and she described how a James was Armwood’s undertaker. The James part of the story mesmerized me.

Kudos to Norma for completing this important work. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy can order it online at Lulu.com.

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Maryland, People, Virginia

Ballet Pioneer Marion Durham Cuyjet

 

Photos courtesy UMES.

Ballet pioneer Marion Durham Cuyjet, who died in 1996, is featured in a recent article by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, written by Tahja Cropper.

Cuyjet’s obituary, repeated in newspapers throughout the country, referred to her as a black ballet pioneer, because of her work as an instructor of countless students at a time when the ballet world was slowly beginning to accept black dance artists. But the newspaper title could be argued as a limiting description of a woman who with grace, struggled to change the racial barriers to dance at that time.

Beginning in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, Cuyjet taught dance at UMES, then called Maryland State College. Her obituary noted that she had also taught at Delaware State College in Dover and Cheyney State University.

Described by UMES, “Born Marion Helene Durham on July 29, 1920 in south Philadelphia, she was the youngest of Alonzo and Frances Durham’s three children. Her parents left Cheswold, Del. for Philadelphia in pursuit of a better life for their family.
As a mixed race descendent from the community of Delaware Moors (West African, Spanish as well as Lenape and Nanticoke Native American ancestry), Cuyjet’s fair complexion motivated her to seek equal opportunity and tear down color barriers for African Americans in the classical ballet community.”

Her early formal training was cut short, because of her race. But the fact that she obtained formal training at all was due to looking white, for in the 1930s, she managed to be accepted into the white-only Littlefield Ballet school in Philadelphia. Though in her teens, she thrived as an artist, appearing in stage productions. But when black friends visited her backstage following a performance, school instructors caught on and immediately kicked her out of the school and their productions.

She thrived as an instructor, with classes inclusive of flamenco, Afro-Cuban, and Jazz styles as well as classical ballet. She worked to send her exceptional students to master teachers. Several of her students went on to have important careers in dance. In 1971, she closed her studio and worked as a movement therapist at Philadelphia State Hospital. She suffered from health problems in later years.

Tahja Cropper’s article is fascinating, be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Delaware, Maryland, People, Schools, Uncategorized

Beginnings of Salisbury’s St. Paul AME Zion Church

This is a photo of St. Paul AME Zion Church in 1908, when it was located on the north side of Church Street in Salisbury, exactly where Business Rt. 13 (Salisbury Boulevard) is now located. The church relocated to the west side of the city when the highway was constructed sometime in the 1940s.

It was located in the African American neighborhood of that time known as Georgetown, which included an adjacent enclave called Cuba. These areas were next to the then largely white neighborhood of Newtown. The origin of the church was on the west side, as described by a history prepared by the church:

“The first African Methodist Episcopal Zion church of Salisbury, MD was organized by Rev. A.J. Spencer around 1880 at North Salisbury [the NW part of Salisbury] called ‘Jersey.’ The first name for this church was ‘Willow Grove.'”

According to this history, after a few months, the congregation moved to the vicinity of the Georgetown area and in 1885 purchased a lot on Water Street. The next year they built a church, “20 ft. by 30 ft.” in size. It was then located near Humphreys Lake which dominated the landscape in downtown Salisbury up until 1909. In 1893, repairs were made as well as a 20-ft. addition to the building.

In 1899, the Church Street property was purchased; and the name of the church changed to St. Paul AME Zion Church. It took time to raise the funds and construct the new building; the cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1906. According to that church history, “In 1942, the church was moved to and renovated at 410 Delaware Avenue, Salisbury, MD.”

Above is the 1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the church when it was still on Water Street, at a time when there was to Rt. 13 or Rt. 50. Then it was near the ice plant and a block away from the elementary school. The John Wesley M.E. Church (now the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center) is shown to the upper left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the 1931 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the church at its Church Street location, east of the John Wesley M.E. Church.  The red dot is the location of where the Church Street Mural will soon be located. Again, the two highways did not exist at that time. Shown here is a 1929 church program.

St. Paul AME Zion was one of three churches in that neighborhood, up until the highways were constructed. St. Paul was the first to be relocated due to Rt. 13 construction. Then First Baptist, southeast of John Wesley, was relocated when Rt. 50 was constructed through the area. The neighborhood was worn away until not much of it was left. Finally  the congregation of the John Wesley church merged with White’s Temple and became Wesley Temple on the west side. The Chipman Cultural Center is the only surviving church structure in that once prominent neighborhood.  When John Wesley Church is honored, it is important to honor the others as well. They comprised a community and were a big part of that area’s history.

Below this program is another partial view of the church on Church Street, a rare view looking west, before there was ever a Rt. 13. On the left (south) side of Church Street is seen part of a porch to a house, then beyond it, two other buildings.  The first building, set back from the street, was the later residence of Dr. Sembly who will be one of the five represented on the mural. This building, which was for a long time at the corner of Church Street and Rt. 13 was torn down years ago after a truck hit it.  The building shown beyond that, situated closer to the street, was the Parker-King Store, an African American owned business. The building was taken by the construction of Rt. 13.

It is important to honor the history that literally disappeared; otherwise, no sense can be made of the historic places that survive and the history of the people becomes forgotten. This neighborhood was very much part of the story of Salisbury’s heritage.

 

Linda Duyer

 

 

Posted in Churches, Maryland, People

The Real Problem with Diversity in (insert academic discipline)

 

 

Referenced here is a 2017 blog article critical of lack of diversity in academia, specifically in university political science departments. It was written by Dr. Lee Ann Fujii, who died in 2018. It delves deeper into a topic often touched on only generally.

As a friend and colleague, I never focused on this article in part because of the grief I was experiencing with this untimely loss. I wince a little when referring to myself as a colleague, but during the time when I worked for her as a research assistant with one of her projects locally on the Maryland Eastern Shore, she accepted nothing less than equality, though she had her Ph.D. and I was a practicing local historian with only a bachelors degree in Geography. If she were still here, she would be chastising me if I did not use that term, that’s just how she was.

But many of her academic colleagues have described how her article and the speech she gave about this was groundbreaking for her willingness to stick her neck out to discuss the elephant in the room, so to speak. Lee Ann’s gender, her complicated racial background, her discipline specialty in racial violence, and her legendary forthrightness alongside likeability made her immensely qualified to take on the topic, and people would listen. Given the year was 2016 when she first spoke on this, I think it boggled the minds of her colleagues that this had never been discussed in these ways before.  It must have been very generic, with little teeth to the arguments, and the avoidance of inserting the term “white privilege” into the academic conversation.

What struck me was her warning that the status quo was not unique to political science academia, but that in her field of political science, said Fujii, “We are the norm.” This is why I titled this piece the way I did.

Even since her passing, I am learning from her.  Recently I was discussing with one of her editors/friend about the creation of a book Lee Ann published in 2017 on the subject of interviewing. I also was one of the reviewers.  Lee Ann frequently used the words “her” or “she” when describing generally about non-specific researchers and what they should or shouldn’t do.  The editors and myself lost that battle, that Lee Ann should write it non-gender specific.  But now, re-reading her work, I laugh, realizing that must have been by design. She must have been thinking “Well why NOT use the feminine terms? Men writers do use the masculine terms all the time.” Lee Ann, or I should say SHE, was a rebel.

You can read her full comments by clicking on the link or the image.  I don’t know if her points are relevant, as I am not employed in academia, but I feel that she wrote some important food for thought.

 

Linda Duyer

Posted in Uncategorized

Rev. Pezavia O’Connell

Rev. Pezavia O’Connell lived in Salisbury, Maryland for a brief time, when he worked at Princess Anne Academy, now University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

I ran across his name long ago when compiling a kind of directory for my book on the history of the African American neighborhood in Salisbury known as Georgetown.  At the time, I knew nothing about him but found the name curious. I figured out where he had lived, at a residence which still exists on Poplar Hill Avenue. Street numbers changed in the 1950s, but before then, the residence was old 607 Poplar Hill Avenue; today it exists next to the property of the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center and the adjacent playground.

According to the UMES website, “Pezavia O’Connell holds the distinction of being Princess Anne Academy’s first principal with an earned doctorate and the institution’s first instructional leader of the 20th century.” The UMES bio of O’Connell, written by Kimberly Conway Dumpson, indicates that O’Connell was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1861, as Dumpson noted, “some two months following Mississippi’s secession from the Union prior to the start of the Civil War.”

His storied career is summarized by UMES. “Before serving at the Academy, O’Connell earned a bachelor of divinity degree in 1888 from Gammon Theological Seminary, a Methodist Episcopal School in Atlanta, and a doctorate of philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1898.” He was the successor to Portia E. Lovett Bird and reportedly served between 1900 and 1902.

“After his brief stint as leader of Princess Anne Academy, O’Connell moved on to teach at Howard University in Washington and then at his alma mater, Gammon, before becoming head of the history department at Morgan College in 1920. O’Connell Hall, a men’s dormitory, was named in his honor on the Morgan campus in Baltimore. O’Connell died November 26, 1930 at age 69.”

A local directory and the 1910 U.S. Census indicate that O’Connell was living on Poplar Hill Avenue at least between 1908 and 1910. Soon after this, he was at Howard University. There is indication that between his time at Howard University and Morgan State University, O’Connell was briefly a pastor in Cleveland, Ohio. There is also evidence of him as a prolific speaker.

O’Connell’s time on the Eastern Shore was brief. But now I understand more about the man with the curious name who once lived on Poplar Hill Avenue.

Below, Poplar Hill Avenue, Google Earth image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Duyer

 

Posted in Maryland, People, Schools, Uncategorized