A groundbreaking ceremony at the site where the mural honoring Frederick Douglass will be installed was held this past Saturday, July 10, 2021, in the Hill Community at 505 South St. in Easton. The mural, which is planned to be unveiled on September 4, has been painted by world-renowned artist Michael Rosato. Dignitaries and community leaders from the Town, County, and State, joined Hill residents and others involved or interested in the Operation Frederick Douglass on the Hill project.
Led by Tarence Bailey, Sr., 5x great-nephew of Frederick Douglass, the dream to honor his uncle materialized when a friend of the Bailey family, social activist, Michelle Garcia-Daniels, agreed to pay for the mural if Rosato would paint it. A search then began for a location on the Hill, one of the oldest African American neighborhoods still in existence, that would accommodate the 24×8 foot mural. It was solved when Bailey knocked on the door to the owners of the Solid Tops building on the Rails to Trails, located a short distance from the historic Buffalo Soldier’s House.
“I was always told as a child that people aren’t mind readers,” said Bailey. “No one will know your needs if you don’t open your mouth. I had my eye on that spot for over a year. So, I just walked up to the front door and asked. Annie Kruger and her husband were willing to be involved and donated it to us.”
Once all the permits were granted, fundraising began. This weekend’s ceremony allowed the project’s family and committee members to thank their supporters.
The afternoon event began with Bailey introducing Rosato and acknowledging the elected officials. In attendance were Maryland State Delegate Johnny Mautz, Talbot County Council President Chuck Callahan, Easton Mayor Robert Willey, Town Council President Megan Cook, Council Members Rev. Elmer Davis, Jr. Al Silverstein, and Don Abbatiello.
Rosato, who is best known for his Cambridge homage to Harriet Tubman, thanked Bailey for his persistence in finding a location on the Hill: “I think it’s important that it be in this community where Frederick Douglass once walked and where he was a slave. It’s going to be something that the community can be proud of; I know I’m proud of it.” Rosato added, “I’ve had many opportunities to tell the Black story, and you learn so much. While I was painting this mural, I listened to his autobiography, and it was so powerful. The mural tells that story: of perseverance, and dedication to purpose that he had, not just for himself, but for his community and his people.”
Mayor Willey acknowledged that he’s witnessed an awareness of Douglass’ contribution to the County. “A lot of people in Talbot County weren’t even aware of who Frederick Douglass was, what he did, and what he stood for. Over the last couple of years, that kind of changed. I think now people understand what’s taken place and what the story is behind Frederick Douglass.”
President of the Talbot County Council, Chuck Callahan, said he is aware of what this project will do for the County. He pledged the Council’s assistance in ensuring the continued growth of the Hill community as it now hosts the mural.
Delegate Mautz thanked Bailey and his family for the work they had done in bringing the project to fruition, “It also means an incredible amount to the community because you’re sharing this with the community.” Adding, “It’s not a regional thing., it’s not a national thing. This is a down-home thing.”
Also recognized was Derick Daly, founder of BAAM (Building African American Minds), Polaris Village Ministries, and now CEO of JACK Construction, who will be building a mount for the mural.
Speaking after the ceremony, Bailey said, “This event gave us a renewed energy boost! And the support from the Hill Community and people who drove down as far away as Wilmington, Delaware, is very encouraging. It let me know that this is a worthy thing. The support of local government gives me all the reason to know this will be a success, and Easton, Maryland, and Frederick Douglass will be the center of attention come September 4 to round out the summer of 2021!”
Donations to the Frederick Douglass on the Hill project can be made at: https://www.mscf.org/donate-online
Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.