The Talbot Historical Society (THS) celebrated the grand opening of the new “Voices of the African American Experience Exhibit” on Saturday, October 2, 2021.
The exhibit captures, preserves, and elevates facets of the rich history of the African American population at work, play, worship, home and school in Talbot County. It recognizes the pivotal roles African American churches have played in helping to shape that history, especially in the face of racial oppression, obstruction, and other challenges. The exhibit focuses on the timeframe of the 1970s and earlier and gives voice to the African American experience primarily through the lens of eleven early African American churches in the county, established during the 1800s and still functioning today: namely, Asbury United Methodist Church, Easton; Bethel A.M.E. Church, Easton; New Queen Esther A.M.E. Church, Ivytown; New St. John’s United Methodist Church, Wittman; Scotts United Methodist Church, Trappe; St. Luke United Methodist Church, Bellevue; St. Matthew United Methodist Church, Longwoods; St. Stephen’s A.M.E. Church, Unionville; Union Baptist Church, Easton; Union United Methodist Church, St. Michaels; and Waters United Methodist Church, Oxford.
The opening for the exhibit featured a live performance of the “Evolution of Gospel Music” created by Leroy and Richard Potter. Performance participants included soloist Lane Morgan, soloist Chris Barnett, the Friends for Christgospel singing group, and praise dancer Raven Gill.
The exhibit was a project of the THS Board of Directors African American Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. L. Bradley Baker. The lead researcher and archivist for the exhibit was Dr. Willie G. Woods. Other committee members included Cathy Hill, Larry Denton, Bob Shannahan, Elinor Cecil, THS General Manager Peggy Morey, and early-on Michael Cone.
Input from a host of community members was received, with primary contributions from Naomi Thomas, Leola Brown, Carlene Phoenix, Marcia Potter, Pamela Clay, Jo Ann Asparagus Murray, Harriette Lowery, Rev. Nancy Dennis, Walter Black, Blanche Jenkins, Richard Potter, Teresa Greene, Shirlee Chase, Albert Brooks, Colonel William De Shields, Edsel Turner, Jacqueline Greene, Sandra Butler, Ezola Webb, Paula Bell, Stephanie Chester, Eric Dashiell, Jennifer Reed, Jim Dawson, Charlene DeShields, Gladys Giddings, Mary Taylor-Acree, Vernette Palmer, and Elizabeth Stephens. The exhibit display was designed by Assemble Company’s Patrick Rogan.
The “Voices of the African American Experience Exhibit” will be a permanent exhibit housed in the Mary Jenkins House Talbot County Museum on the campus of the Talbot Historical Society on Washington Street in Easton. The exhibit is dynamic, with the opportunity for additional community input during a designated timeframe. The new museum room will be open for public viewing Wednesdays through Fridays 10:00 am – 3:00 pm and Saturdays 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.