Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Maryland - First Impressions
In the meantime, we changed our plans a bit and headed for Annapolis, Maryland, on Chesapeake Bay. This beautiful old city claims to be the sailing capital of the USA, and first impressions bear this out. There are countless small bays, inlets and marinas, and every one of them is choc a bloc with boats. Every street seems to lead down to the water, but on the way it manages to display several beautiful 18th century houses, a great seafood restaurant or two, a bar, a boating supplier of some kind and an unbroken avenue of magnificent trees. There are many layers of history here - early British settlement during the reign of Charles 1 (Maryland was named after his wife), revolution, the establishment of the Union, major battles of the Civil War (in which the state's loyalties were divided). The people of Annapolis have done a brilliant job of preserving, restoring and recording their historic sites.
The history of race relations in Maryland is both tragic and inspiring. Two very famous figures lived here - Harriet Tubman, who was such an important figure in the 'underground railroad' system for smuggling slaves out of the south to freedom; and Frederick Douglass, the great civil rights activist. The state was also home to Patty Cannon, a woman of legendary strength and brutality, who ran a gang of slave-catchers, kidnapping both escaped slaves and freed blacks and selling them back to the southern states. She had secret dungeons in her house, and was so terrifying that she became a kind of bogeyman figure, used by mothers for generations to frighten their children out of bad behaviour or straying too far from home.
On Memorial Day, Terry lent a hand to the women who maintain the Brewer Hill Cemetery, to lower their flag to half mast. We had a really interesting and moving wander around the historic African-American cemetery (of course, like everything else, cemeteries were segregated until the 1960s). Some of the stone markers told terrible stories of lynchings and people hanged for crimes they didn't commit. But it is a peaceful and beautiful place now. One of the custodians told us, "My mama's here, my brother's here, my baby's here, and there's a nice green place waitin for me here too someday."
We're off to Washington DC for a couple of days, then back for some serious sailing and boat shopping.