CROWNSVILLE, MD – African America history is sometimes hard to come across because so little is known and recorded.
Yet archeologists can unearth unspoiled records of what happened hundreds of years ago.
The Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration recently uncovered a long-forgotten slave cemetery in Correspondent Morgan Wright reports on how archeologists have discovered slave quarters, a slave cemetery and descendants of slaves that once worked and lived on the land.
Deep in the forest, sisters Shelly Evans and Wanda Watts walk in the footsteps of their ancestors the two women share a frustration common to many African Americans, whose ancestors were enslaved in America.
“We have no history. We begin and we end here,” says Wanda Watts.
But thanks to a recent and accidental discovery, the sisters may have uncovered their family’s hidden family on this piece of land.
“My three times great grandmother was born here,” says Shelley Evans.
Evans and Watts are the descendants of slaves who lived, worked, and may have died here on what was the Belvoir Plantation.
Dr. Julie SChablitsky is the Chief Archaeologist with the Maryland Department of Transportation.
“When we first came here to Belvoir we were first looking for the Rochambeau encampment which was during the American Revolution,” says Dr. Julie Schablitsky.
But instead, they found slave quarters, built in the 1780s and lived in until emancipation in 1864.
The land was a tobacco plantation once owned by relatives of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.
A former resident of the property tipped Dr. Schablitshy’s team off of what they thought could be a slave cemetery tucked along a ravine, deep in the woods.
They found nearly half a dozen pieces of broken marble, and stones, resembling grave markers thrown around the location.
But to be sure Dr. Schablitsky brought in cadaver dogs.
Once they picked up a human scent, they confirmed it was a cemetery.
“For me it was the knowledge of them being buried someplace rather than being tossed away,” says Wanda Watts.
But even so, they may never know for certain if their family is actually buried here at Belvoir.
Dr. Schablitsky says there are no immediate plans for the uncovered slave cemetery.
The slave quarters have been fully excavated and the Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration plans to add interpretive panels to the site.