ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




The city’s outstanding scandal was a congested square in the Negro quarter of northwest Baltimore known a

s “Lung Block.” It was bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, Druid Hill Avenue, Biddle and Preston Streets.

Negroes are notoriously susceptible to tuberculosis.

Father Divine                                                                                                                                                          Thurgood Marshall



Citizens of Color

By Francis F. Beirne

The essay below was written over fifty years ago. It has little to do with the present realities of the city, though some of the families spoken of here still exist, some high, some low: 

It is estimated that Negroes make up 20 per cent of the total population of Baltimore, forming one of the largest Negro communities in the country. On the one hand they have contributed generously to the to the support of those amenities of life which characterize a civilized community; on the other hand their presence poses a social problem of formidable proportions.

Since Negro slavery was an institution of the Maryland colony it is to be presumed that Negroes were in Baltimore from the town’s beginning. Though a century was to pass before slavery was abolished, protests against the institution began early in Baltimore. The first one of which there is record was made at the eighth Methodist conference meeting in Baltimore in April, 1780.

It is significant perhaps that this particular conference was attended only by Northern preachers, who therefore may have been legislating rather more for their Southern brethren than for themselves. However that may be, they declared officially that keeping slaves was contrary to the laws of God, of man and nature, and resolved that all traveling preachers of the Baltimore Conference who owned slaves should be required to set them free.

Eight years later, on September 8, 1788, there was established in Baltimore “The Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage.” This was the first antislavery society to be formed in Maryland, the fourth in the United States and the sixth in the world. Conspicuous among its founders were members of the Society of Friends, but other leading citizens took part.

On July 4, 1791, the society at a public meeting listened to an oration delivered by Dr. George Buchanan, a member of one of Baltimore’s oldest families and a physician of national distinction. “God,” said Dr. Buchanan, “hath created mankind after his own image and granted them liberty and independence, and if varieties may be found in their structure and color, these are only to be attributed to the nature of their diet and habits, as also to the soil and the climate they may inhabit, and serve as flimsy pretexts for enslaving them.” He went on to mention by name several Negroes who had achieved high position in various fields and remarked, “These are sufficient to show that the Africans whom you despise, whom you inhumanly treat as brutes and whom you unlawfully subject to slavery, are equally capable of improvement with yourselves.”

In a slave-holding community it was indeed bold thus frankly and publicly to argue equality of the races. Yet apparently Dr. Buchanan’s thesis provoked no objection. On the contrary the minutes show that the president of the society was directed to thank Dr. Buchanan “for the excellent oration.” The president at that time was Samuel Sterett and the vice-president Alex McKim, both like Dr. Buchanan members of Baltimore’s oldest and most influential families.

Baltimore, too, was exceptionally active in the movement in the 1820’s to transport free Negroes in the United States back to Africa and established a colony there. Liberia was the result. Many prominent persons were enthusiastic supporters of this scheme for righting the wrong of slavery. They did not realize that the Negro population in this country had grown to such proportions that an attempt to return any appreciable part of it to Africa was altogether impracticable. John Eager Howard and Isaac McKim were vice-presidents of “The American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States.” In the second annual report of the society issued in Washington in 1819 reference was made to “the generosity of the city of Baltimore” in the matter of money contributed toward the operations of the society. Other Baltimoreans active in putting through the program were General Robert Goodloe Harper and J. H. B. Latrobe. General Harper is credited with having suggested the name Liberia for the colony with having suggested the name Liberia for the colony while Mr. Latrobe proposed Monrovia as the name of the capital. In recognition of Maryland’s contribution, which largely was that of Baltimore, a part of the colony situated at Cape Palmas was given the name of Maryland which it still bears.

Shortly after establishment of the colony its first governor, John B. Russwurm, a Negro, arrived in Baltimore on a visit. The Board of Directors of the local chapter of the society tendered him a handsome dinner and drank his health. An auspicious as the occasion may have seemed with respect to racial relations something like a century was to pass before whites and Negroes would again sit down at the same table at a public dinner in Baltimore.

Slaves were property. It is understandable that persons whose wealth depended upon the institutions were reluctant to surrender it. Yet there can be no doubt that owning slaves was on the conscience of many Marylanders. They showed it by manumitting them in their wills. Among those taking this course was Charles Ridgely, former Governor of the State and master of Hampton. The liberation of all Negroes slaves in Baltimore of course came only with the Civil War. It is interesting to note that at the time of the riot in April, 1861, attending the march of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry through the city, some 300 of the most respectable Negro residents tendered their services to the city authorities. Mayor Brown thanked them for their offer and asked them to hold themselves in readiness in case they should be needed.

But emancipation did not prove to be a complete solution of the Negro problem. Some members of the race prospered while others found it hard to make a living in their new-found freedom. In Baltimore as in other large cities the Negroes comprise the poorest element in the community. It has been said that, in hard times, the Negroes are the first to lose their jobs, and, as times improve, the last to be re-employed. The racial problem is accentuated by the constant movement of Negroes from Virginia, the Carolinas and other Southern states who are attracted to the Baltimore labor market. Unlike the Baltimore-born Negroes they are not adapted to the local environment, and through the working of the old law of supply and demand the influx of newcomers depresses the labor market. It also adds to the already crowded conditions in those sections of the city which have been taken over by the Negroes.

In Baltimore segregation is the general rule. When Negroes enter a neighborhood the whites moved out. Consequently as the increasing Negro population seeks more room and tries to spread out into hitherto white neighborhoods it meets opposition. Nevertheless expansion has continued, but not a rate sufficient to prevent heavy congestion in the Negro sections. Here the population is more than 58,000 to the square mile compared with 9,000 to the square mile in the white neighborhoods.

Even when the Negroes take over a neighborhood they inherit the oldest houses in the city. In short what they get is a blighted area. It has been estimated that while only 27.3 per cent of the white population lives in blighted areas, no less than 92.6 per cent of the Negro population does. The effect of this crowding is reflected a few years ago the life expectancy of a Negro child in Baltimore was put at 53.9 years as compared with 65 years for a white child. Serious crimes committed by Negroes are far out of proportion to their population in the community.

                                                                                                                                             photo left. Pennsylvania Avenue with the old Royal Theater

There are three large Negro neighborhoods in the city. One is in northeast Baltimore in the vicinity of Johns Hopkins Hospital, another is in South Baltimore convenient to the harbor and the third is in northwest Baltimore. The last named by far the largest and the most important. Pennsylvania Avenue, from Dolphin to Laurens Street is its “Great Way.” Here are found its night clubs, its theaters, its beauty shops and fortune tellers. Here the sporting element congregates on Saturday nights and here on Easter Sunday the Negroes have their own fashion parade.

As was true of other Southern cities, the large Negro population once afforded an abundant supply of domestic help. At the turn of the century, before the exodus to the suburbs, Baltimore’s fashionable residential area lay in the blocks adjacent to and north of Mt. Vernon Place. It embraced Mt. Vernon Place itself, and Park Avenue, Cathedral Street, North Charles, St. Paul and Calvert. Most of the houses ran to four stories and, in addition, had their kitchens in the basement. They were extravagant to run, as a rule, required the care of five servants. There was a cook, a downstairs maid and an upstairs maid on continual duty. There was in addition a laundress and also a man who looked after the furnace and washed the front steps.

These were the houses of the wealthy and the well to do. But families of modest means supported at least one servant. They wondered how people in the North and in the West got along with no servant at all. This happy existence continued pretty well up to the outbreak of World War II. Baltimoreans caught a glimpse of the realities of life only on occasions when sickness or a death in a domestic’s family kept her at home. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it was estimated that the domestic servant industry in Baltimore, almost entirely controlled by Negroes, amounted to $19,000,000 annually.

    photo left: Mt. Vernon Place

Then, with the advent of World War II and a demand for labor in the factories turning out war goods, the domestic servants vanished from their accustomed places. Men who were making good wages wanted their wives at home to cook for them. Unmarried women had no difficulty finding jobs in the war plants. Housewives found it hopeless to persuade them to stick to domestic labor. They couldn’t be convinced that it was any easier. 

So, with considerable distress, Baltimoreans in the middle-income brackets found themselves in the same boat with their opposite numbers in the North and West. They had to go without. They learned to cook. At least there was consolation in not having to feed and pay a servant. Money saved on those items was used for labor-saving devices in the kitchen. In Baltimore as elsewhere the profession of baby sitting was born.

An agency that has been active in attacking the problems arising from the proximity of the two races is the Baltimore Urban League, one of a number of such leagues found in other cities with large Negro populations. Its membership is composed both of white and Negro citizens. It was established in 1924 “to improve conditions under which Negro citizens of Baltimore live and work” and “to build a better climate of racial understanding.” The individual generally identified as founder of the League was John R. Cary, a member of the Society of Friends. Thus was maintained the Baltimore tradition of Quaker interest in the welfare of the Negro which was manifested more than a century earlier in the antislavery society.

At the time of the founding of the League the city’s outstanding scandal was a congested square in the Negro quarter of northwest Baltimore known as “Lung Block.” It was bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, Druid Hill Avenue, Biddle and Preston Streets. Negroes are notoriously susceptible to tuberculosis. In “Lung Block” the death rate for the disease was 958 per 100,000 of population as compared with a citywide rate of 131.9. The League seized upon the cleaning up of “Lung Block” as its first project. By dint of harbor labor and pitiless publicity it aroused the community to the shame and disgrace of conditions. Eventually the block, with its tumble-down and germ-infested houses, was razed and a modern housing development erected on its site.

On the occasion of its twenty fifth anniversary in 1950 the League published a survey of the progress that had been made and was being made toward the realization by Baltimore Negroes of those rights set forth in 1947 by President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. The survey reported that in Baltimore the threat of widespread violence or mob action was virtually nonexistent. That is interesting in view of Baltimore’s earlier unsavory reputation as Mobtown.

Under the heading of safety and security of person the chief complaint was that the police handle Negro prisoners more severely than whites. Note was made also that in the courts punishment meted out tended to be less for Negroes who committed crimes against each other than those who committed crimes against whites, and in some instances, punishment of whites was less than for Negroes for the same crime.

The survey noted that it was customary for Negroes to be represented on juries and public boards. It called attention to the fact that segregation was practiced generally. But while white and Negro children were educated separately in the public schools, some progress had been made in getting professional courses in local colleges opened to Negroes. Reference was made to Negroes in the graduate schools of the University of Maryland. There were individual instances also of a Negro at St. John’s College, Annapolis, and of Negroes in the graduate schools of the University of Maryland. There were individual instances also of a Negro at St. John’s College, Annapolis, and of Negro students in the engineering school of John Hopkins University, Loyola College and the Peabody Institute. The survey went on to point out that while Negroes had been taken on the Baltimore police force, they were excluded from driving buses of the Baltimore Transit Company and that certain job restrictions were in effect with the Telephone Company and the Gas and Electric Company. It was pointed out that Negroes found a barrier raised against them in trade unions.

                                                                                                                                                                         photo right: Peabody Institute

A source of irritation in recent years has been use of the public parks and their recreational facilities. Negroes also complain over being excluded from theaters, restaurants and hotels and of receiving differential treatment in the stores.

Baltimoreans looking back over the past fifty years are impressed with the progress that has been made in the recognition of rights of the Negro citizens. There is no question that there will be further recognition as the years go by. The question is how rapid the progress should be. Thus far the white population has yielded with surprising calm to the demands for change. Constant agitation thus far has achieved such gratifying results from the standpoint of the Negro that there is a tendency for the more radical element to increase its demand with the end of wiping out all racial distinction. That is not likely for many years to come.

Striking evidence of the progress that has been made by Baltimore Negroes is to be found in the several institutions run by them. Conspicuous among these are the Provident Hospital, Morgan College and the Baltimore Institute of Musical Arts.

The Provident Hospital is housed in the old buildings of what once was the Union Protestant Infirmary, now Union Memorial Hospital. It is strategically located in the Negro neighborhood in northwest Baltimore and serves the Negro population. White physicians act in an advisory capacity. Aside from that the medical and surgical staffs, nurses, orderlies and administrative staffs are all composed of Negroes. Associated with the hospital is a nursing school conducted entirely for and by Negroes.

Morgan College is attractively located in the northern suburbs in what otherwise is a white neighborhood. It offers courses in the cultural arts and the sciences including domestic science. Morgan is coeducational and has a student body of several thousand.

The Baltimore Institute of Musical Arts is a new agency. It owes its creation to the fact that, as a general rule, Negro students have not been accepted by the Peabody Conservatory of Music. It is too soon to evaluate the instruction it offers in vocal and instrumental music. In view of the natural musical endowment of the Negro the Institute of Musical Arts offers great promise of achievement.

The growth of Baltimore’s Negro community has produced a demand for special services presented by Negroes. The weekly newspaper, the Afro-American, is an outstanding example. The demand has led also to the development of a professional class including lawyers, doctors, dentists, teachers, insurance men, real estate men and merchants.

For many years catering for the city’s leading social events has been in the hands of Negroes. Two names which stand out in this field are those of Charles Shipley and T. Henry Waters.

Until shortly before his death in 1943 the cream of the business went to Shipley. Shipley came originally from Howard County. An older brother, William, held the important post of butler to General John Gill of R., a bon vivant of his day. Charles entered the Gill household as second man. In that capacity he had the opportunity to put his special talents to work learning how the best food was prepared and served.

For years Shipley regularly served the supper for the Bachelors’ Cotillion and for the Assembly. Whenever distinguished visitors came to Baltimore Shipley was called in to prepare the menus for them. And when he was in charge it could be taken for granted that the food would be the very best and that it would be served with exquisite taste. On the visit of Cardinal Mercier of Belgium, hero of the German occupation of his country in World War I, to Cardinal Gibbons, it was Shipley who had charge of the food. He acted in a similar capacity during the visits of Queen Marie of Rumania, Prince Paul of Greece and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Shipley’s men on formal occasions were attired in plum-colored livery and his equipment was the finest. He owned several after-dinner silver services whose value ran into hundreds of dollars. An admirer once said of him: “It was the achievement of Shipley that he and his men could come into any house, or any apartment, and turn it for an evening into a sort of ducal palace.” One lady said she never enjoyed her own parties until she discovered Shipley. After that she could turn everything over to him confident that there would never be a slip.

Shipley made a specialty of old Maryland country-cured ham and terrapin. Once King Prajadhikop of Siam came to the Johns Hopkins Hospital as a patient. Among other things his doctor prescribed Maryland terrapin. Of course the only person in Baltimore regarded as fit to prepare terrapin for a king was Shipley. Prajadhikop was so delighted with the dish that, after his return to Siam, he several times had orders of Shipley’s terrapin sent halfway round the world to him.

Shipley went out of business several years before his death in 1943 at the age of sixty four years. He was born epicure and in his later years confessed that he could acclimate himself to what he called the “gin, jazz, hot dog and blues days.” Fortunately he confided the secret of preparing terrapin to his son who still carries on the Shipley tradition at the Maryland Club.

Following Shipley’s death Waters, who had already been pressing him hard in general popularity, took over most of the entertainments. Waters got his start as a butler to Hugh Bond another prominent Baltimorean who belonged to an age when good living was a fine art. His service has shown the results of the early training.

Another Negro associated with Baltimore’s entertainments, both public and private, is Rivers Chambers. His catering is done for those who want, not food, but music.

When an invitation says Rivers Chambers will be present it is put there to draw a crowd. For Rivers Chambers is a surefire attraction. Sometimes Rivers Chambers is an individual, sometimes he is three people, sometimes he is an orchestra of twenty pieces, sometimes he is in several places at once. However many he may be Rivers Chambers is synonymous with gay music and general good cheer.

It all began back in 1930 at the beginning of the great depression. Chamber then was playing the organ in a movie house in New York City. At the same time one Charles (Butler) Brown was playing in a jazz band in Albany, New York, and one Leroy (Tee) Loggins was making music in a traveling musical show in Louisiana. When times got hard all three headed for Baltimore. They formed the nucleus of an orchestra which played for seven years as a pit band in the Royal Theater on Pennsylvania Avenue. Rivers Chambers was the leader and the general inspiration behind the venture.

photo left: The original Rivers Chambers Trio at Chambers’ home on McCullogh Street. Chambers and two of his oldest and closest friends, Charles (Buster) Brown, standing right, and Leroy (Tee) Loggins, seated on Chambers’ left, made up the original Trio.—JohnsHopkins

Around 1937 Chambers, Brown and Loggins, forming a musical trio, extended their operations to include outside parties. It did not take them long to achieve fame throughout the city and to build up an extensive clientèle. Success was speeded by an accident. One night in a beer garden on Wilkens Avenue Buster Brown had his accordion going and was in the middle of hill billy song entitled “They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree,” when he forgot the words and had to improvise. He found himself singing and then repeating “Oh, cut it down, oh cut it down, and they hauled it away to the mill.” The tune was catchy and in a few minutes everybody in the place had joined in. No telling how many times since the old pine tree had been cut down. The song requires no voice. It isn’t sung, it is shouted. It never ends. And it makes a party go.

Rivers Chambers and his fellow musicians are almost invariably present at alumni dinners, lodge smokers, convention banquets, anniversary parties, wedding receptions, debutante parties and wherever more than two or three are gathered together to have a good time. The orchestra plays for the fashionable dancing classes, too. Chambers thinks he must have appeared in virtually every house in the Green Spring Valley. He has played also for various Governors of Maryland, Mayors of Baltimore, U. S. Senators and lesser statesmen.

An incident Chambers likes to recall is when the Duke of Windsor joined his band for an evening. The occasion was an exclusive dinner given by an old Baltimore friend of the Duchess during one of the visits of the Windsors. Chambers was engaged to sing spirituals. But, being an experienced showman, he prepared for any eventuality by tossing his drums and other noisemaking instruments in the back of his car. Sure enough, after a round of spirituals, the Duke approached Chambers and remarked that he knew something about playing the traps. He supposed Chambers hadn’t brought his along. But Chambers had and soon the Duke was having the time of his life as a member of the orchestra.

It is not unusual for a stranger at a party to find Buster Brown before him, playing an accordion and singing some song appropriate to the stranger’s home, college club or profession. Brown has been put up to it by some other guest. There isn’t any song he doesn’t know or can’t learn in a couple of minutes after somebody has hummed the air to him. If a guest from Patagonia were to appear at a Baltimore party Brown could be counted on to produce a Patagonian folksong or its national anthem, if Patagonia has one.

On Sunday, January 7, 1933, the Sunpapers announced the death of William Paine, hat-check man at the Merchants’ Club, after a service of thirty years. The interesting thing about Paine was that he was a hat-check man who used no checks. Though he handled hundreds of hats and coats at one time he could remember every person to whom a hat and coat belonged. The announcement went on to say that it was expected that from then on checks would be used. It seemed unlikely that anybody could duplicate this remarkable feat of memory.

However, apprenticed to Paine for nine years was a young man named William Gilbert. In the course of those nine years Gilbert had learned the secret from the master. When he first replaced Paine, old members of the club were skeptical. But not for long. Soon Gilbert was taking care of hats and coats on the memory system as confidently as Paine had ever done. At a Christmas party at the club he once handled as many as 550 hats and coats without making a mistake. How he does it is Gilbert’s secret, as it was Paine’s. When questioned he replied that he “just trusts to mother wit.”

In the course of years Baltimore has sheltered or produced other individual Negroes of unusual distinction for a variety of reasons. The town was still young when, around 1796, there appeared on the local scene one Joshua Johnston. Information about him is fragmentary. There is reason to believe he came from the West Indies as a slave. Local tradition has made him a bondsman of General Sam Smith, or General John Stricker and of Hugh McCurdy. It is based on the fact that he painted portraits of the families of all three of these gentlemen, for he was a portrait painter of no little talent. Somewhere along the line Johnston, if he actually had been a slave, must have been manumitted, for in the city directory for thirty years between 1796 and 1824 he is listed as a “free Negro householder.” Some twenty one existing oil portraits are known to have been his work. He evidently was influenced by the Peale family which also was producing portraits at that time. Critics gave Johnston serious consideration as an “American primitive.”

More famous throughout the nations than Joshua Johnston, and for quite another reason, was Joe Gans, a native Baltimorean, Joe was born on November 25, 1874. He grew up round the fish market. In 1890, at the age of sixteen years, he took part in his first prize fight at the Avon Club, knocked out another Negro boy and won $4 out of a $5 purse. His official career, however, dates from 1894. From then on he was continually in the ring and for eight years spent his time working his way up to the top. On May 21, 1902, he became the lightweight champion of the world. Joe held the title until he was knocked out by Battling Nelson at San Francisco in the 17th round of a fight on July 4, 1908. Many said that it was not Battling Nelson but tuberculosis that dethroned Joe. At San Francisco he already was a sick man; two years later he died of the disease.

Old sports writers have said that Joe Gans was the greatest fighter of all time. In addition to his skill he had the reputation for being a good sportsman and a clean fighter. He was idolized in his home town by white and black alike.

                                                                                                                                                            photo right: Joe Gans

Joe’s last losing battle was fought in Arizona where he had gone in the hope of regaining his health. Realizing that the end was near he was rushed back home to die. After his death his body lay in state in Whatcoat Methodist Episcopal Church and crowds passed to pay “The Old Master” their last respects. Joe was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, in Westport, a southwest Baltimore neighborhood. People still come from distant parts of the country to visit his grave.

Nearly thirty years later Baltimore witnessed the state funeral of another distinguished son. It was that of Chick Webb, known nationally and internationally as “Harlem’s King of Drums.” William Henry Webb, to give him his full name, was born in East Baltimore. He was one years old when respects were being paid to the moral remains of Joe Gans. At an early age Chick was crippled by tuberculosis of the spine. While making a living as a newsboy he got into the habit of drumming out tunes on fences, boxes and on the wooden steps of row houses which abound in Baltimore.

Drumming was in Chick’s soul. At fifteen years he played in a Negro orchestra. At sixteen he left for New York and showed so much ability that shortly he was organizing his own band. His style of drum playing came to be known as the “power drive.” Soon the connoisseurs were saying that Chick Webb’s was the “hottest” swing band in the country. It got a contract to play at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Chick was a composer as well as a band leader and the author of several song hits. His band had the distinction of being the only swing band ever to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. It took part in a benefit concert and accompanied Lily Pons, Helen Jepson and Grace Moore in a complex arrangement of “Minnie the Moocher.”

The old and deadliest enemy of the Baltimore Negro caught up with Chick as it had done with Joe Gans. He died of tuberculosis in Johns Hopkins Hospital in June, 1939. His body was taken to the humble home of his grandparents at 1313 Ashland Avenue. There, and later at Waters African M. E. Church, his frail form, clad in his white tuxedo, lay in state in a silver casket. It was estimated that 15,000 persons of all races passed by his bier to pay him final honors. Among the mourners were Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and other great names in the world of swing. In East Baltimore, which the musician knew well in his youth, his name has been immortalized in the Chick Webb Memorial Center, an athletic club for poor Negro boys.

A Baltimore prophet “not without honor” is Father Divine. Around the turn of the century this native son was known as George Baker, who earned a modest living as a hedge trimmer and odd jobs man. That was before he went onto New York and Harlem, experienced a rebirth and came out as Father Divine. Another bull’s-eye for Baltimore. “Peace, it’s wonderful!”

The Negro race produced still another rare man in Emanuel Chambers. For thirty years he was known affectionately to hundreds of members of the Baltimore Club and the Maryland Club. Emmanuel was born on a farm in Harford County and came as a boy to live in Baltimore. In 1907 he commenced his distinguished career as a club servant. The Baltimore Club then was situated at Charles and Madison Streets and Emanuel entered its employ. There he remained until it merged with the Maryland Club in 1933. Emanuel was part of the merger. In the course of the thirty years he served the two clubs he earned a reputation for solving the problems of the club members which became legendary. In fact it was generally believed there was nothing Emanuel couldn’t do.

A club member wanted seats to grand opera at the Lyric which had been sold out for six months. He appealed to Emanuel who produced the seats. A club member sought in vain for a Pullman reservation to Chicago; Emmanuel came up with a whole section. Once he is said to have arranged for an express train to stop at Laurel Race Track to pick up two friends of members of the club who wanted an afternoon at the races before returning to their home in New York.

White ties, shirt studs and collar buttons were no trouble at all. In an emergency Emanuel could always provide them. Once he is said to have remained a forgetful club member that it was his wedding day. There was a time when the District of Columbia required a District license for all cars coming into the area from Maryland. A club member who had business in Washington and wished to use his car once appealed to Emanuel, and Emanuel produced the District license. He cautioned the borrower, however, to return it before 4 p.m., that same day. For, he explained, there was a funeral at that hour and the license belonged to the hearse.

The late Chief Judge Carroll Bond of the Maryland Court of Appeals once visiting in London and was entertained by friends at a London club. The conversation turned to the subject of servants. In the company was much-traveled Englishman who was unacquainted with Judge Bond’s background. He remarked in the judge’s hearing that his travels he had run up with many excellent servants but, in his opinion, by far the best he had ever known was a man named Emanuel at the Maryland Club in Baltimore.

Emanuel never married. During the course of his service at the clubs he lived on his salary and saved his tips. These he turned over to his friend Ellicott H. Worthington for investment. Regularly dividends were plowed back into the capital amount. In 1937 Emanuel retired at the age of seventy-six years. He lived to be eighty-four. Thanks to his frugality and the skill of his financial advisor, his estate had by that time grown to more than $154,000. In his will Emanuel provided for the establishment of the Emanuel Chambers Foundation, Inc., naming Mr. Worthington and four other members of the Maryland Club as trustees. The testator expressed the wish that income from the estate be allocated to nonprofit charities “regardless of race, color, or creed.” The trustees have faithfully carried out Emanuel’s wishes. A recent audit revealed that since Emanuel’s death in 1945 the corpus had increased to $180,000 and yielded income to the amount of $6,000 a year. Out of that income $26,625 already has been contributed to local charities.

In a discussion of the contribution of the Negro race to Baltimore, the life and character of Emanuel Chambers is an appropriate and inspiring note on which to end.

Beirne, Francis F. • The Amiable Baltimoreans • E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. • New York, NY • 1951

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The Storm Is Passing Over—Many of the musicians that worked on Pennsylvania Avenue played half the night on Saturday and then got up Sunday morning to play in church. Rivers Chambers, who performed most Saturday nights until the early hours of Sunday morning, was organist at Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Church. Trumpet player Roy McCoy, who performed regularly at the Club Orleans and with the Rivers Chambers Orchestra, played for Enon Baptist Church and with the Union Baptist Sunday School Orchestra led by violinist James Young.—


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Lillie May Carroll Jackson (May 25, 1889 Baltimore, Maryland – July 5, 1975 Baltimore, Maryland), pioneer civil rights activist, organizer of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. . . .As a successful owner of rental property, Jackson was free to engage in activities which led to community improvement. She sponsored the City-Wide Young Peoples forum with her daughter Juanita in the leadership in the early 1930s. The forum conducted a campaign to end racial segregation beginning with the grassroots “Buy Where You Can Work” campaign of 1931. Jackson and her daughter Juanita along with the forums’ members encouraged African American residents of Baltimore to shop only at businesses where they could work, boycotting businesses with discriminatory hiring practices. The campaign’s success led to similar protests in other cities around the country. . . . That was the beginning of her thirty-five year tenure with the NAACP, in a role as president of the Baltimore branch in 1935, a position she held until retirement in 1970. 1934 saw the beginning of Thurgood Marshall‘s employment with the Baltimore NAACP branch. The next year he won a landmark case financed by the Baltimore NAACP, Murray v. Pearson, removing the color barrier from admissions to the University of Maryland School of Law. In 1946 she founded the Maryland state conference of the NAACP and was elected to the National Board of Directors in 1948.

In 1938 the NAACP won a historic legal challenge to racial barriers in publicly funded institutions. A court judgment overturned city policy assuring all Baltimore city school teachers received equal pay. Jackson’s 1942 movement to register black voters began a shift in city politics. That same year she was named to Maryland’s first Interracial Commission. She was also fundamental to Baltimore being the first Southern city to integrate its schools after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. Baltimore’s Fair Employment Practices law was passed in 1958. She was such a force in Maryland and Baltimore politics that Governor Theodore McKeldin was noted to have said of her, “I’d rather have the devil after me than Mrs. Jackson. Give her what she wants.”


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2 More Baltimore Negroes Elected to Md. Legislature

Two Baltimore Negroes, Emory Cole and Harry Cole [1921-199], who previously were thought to have lost, were elected to the Maryland legislature in a final vote count. The men, both lawyers and Republicans, gained slim margins over their white opponents when absentee ballots were tabulated and joined previously-elected Realtist Truly Hatchett in becoming the state’s first Negro legislators. First Negro to serve as a Baltimore Assistant state’s attorney 32-year old Harry Cole was elected to the state senate by a amrgin of 49 votes, Emory Cole, a retired postal worker, won an assembly seat by less than woo votes.—Jet, Nov. 25, 1954, p.7.

Truly Hatchett, 2026 Druid Hill Avenue, Democrat, Baltimore 4th; born in Baltimore, June 15, 1881. He attended Baltimore public schools. . . . He attended Baltimore public schools. Real Estate and Insurance Broker. Former member of the Baltimore Rehabilitation Commission, Maryland Interracial Commission and the Board of Managers of Barrett School for Girls. Chairman of Board of Managers, Druid Hill Avenue Y.M.C.A. Member of Elks. Married. . . . Emory Ryan Cole, 1137 Myrtle Street, Republican, Baltimore 4th; born in Cockeysville, Baltimore County, September 3, 1893. He attended the Baltimore County public schools, Bowie State Normal School; Howard University and Howard University School of Law, receiving the degree of LL.B. in 1923.

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Elite Black Neighborhood—Druid Hill Avenue

The area was called “Druid Hill Avenue” only because Druid Hill Avenue was the best known street running through it. It was roughly 10 blocks, with Druid Hill Avenue and North Avenue near the center, next to the broad, green open spaces of Druid Hill Park and close to the reservoir.

Most of Baltimore’s wealthier black families lived and raised their children here. Many of the households, according to the late Gaines Lansey, a banker familiar with the neighborhood, had cooks, maids, butlers, housemen. Some of the men dressed for dinner every night in elegant dinner jackets.

Retired District Court Judge William H. Murphy knows the area well. He recalls it as a neighborhood whose residents enjoyed the services of chauffeured limousines and house servants. “They had their own coming-out parties for their children and debutante balls, so their children could meet the right people. And these children—they went to the best colleges in America: Lincoln (as did Marshall) and Howard, yes, but also to Vassar, Smith, Penn, Yale and Harvard. This was in the 1920s, remember.”

Although Marshall was born in what is now the “Thurgood Marshall House” at 1632 Division St., he grew up in the 1800 block of Druid Hill Avenue. There is disagreement among Marshall biographers over whether his family was wealthy, but there were many wealthy families in the neighborhood. Among them was Harry Cole, a well-known political figure, a member of the state legislature and eventually a state Court of Appeals judge. He lived at 1534 Druid Hill Ave. Truly Hatchett, a prominent real estate investor and member of the state legislature, lived at 2026 Druid Hill Ave. And Dr. Louis Harman, a successful physician, lived at 2024 Madison Ave.

Emanuel Chambers lived at the corner of Madison Avenue and Wilson Street. He made a fortune in the stock market. He was the head waiter at the Maryland Club and listened carefully to the conversation of the downtown brokers (all white, of course), and then made his own investments.

As a center of black wealth in a segregated Baltimore, Druid Hill Avenue no longer exists (although the street, of course, is still one of West Baltimore’s main northwest-southeast thoroughfares.) One of the neighborhood’s former residents, Thurgood Marshall, helped make Baltimore an integrated city.—


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Here lies Jim Crow: Civil rights in Maryland

 By C. Fraser Smith

Though he lived throughout much of the South—and even worked his way into parts of the North for a time—Jim Crow was conceived and buried in Maryland. From Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s infamous decision in the Dred Scott case to Thurgood Marshall’s eloquent and effective work on Brown v. Board of Education, the battle for black equality is very much the story of Free State women and men. Here, Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith recounts that tale through the stories, words, and deeds of famous, infamous, and little-known Marylanders. He traces the roots of Jim Crow laws from Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson and describes the parallel and opposite early efforts of those who struggled to establish freedom and basic rights for African Americans.

Following the historical trail of evidence, Smith relates latter-day examples of Maryland residents who trod those same steps, from the thrice-failed attempt to deny black people the vote in the early twentieth century to nascent demonstrations for open access to lunch counters, movie theaters, stores, golf courses, and other public and private institutions—struggles that occurred decades before the now-celebrated historical figures strode onto the national civil rights scene. Smith’s lively account includes the grand themes and the state’s major players in the movement—Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, and Lillie May Jackson, among others.—and also tells the story of the struggle via several of Maryland’s important but relatively unknown men and women—such as Gloria Richardson, John Prentiss Poe, William L. “Little Willie” Adams, and Walter Sondheim—who prepared Jim Crow’s grave and waited for the nation to deliver the body.—Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 19 April 2010



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