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Tindley Way

African American Heritage

Editorial and photos supplied by Lisa Challenger, Executive Director of Beach to Bay Heritage Area

The history of the African American experience on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, spanning close to three and a half centuries, consists of a complex fabric of fact and oral traditions tied to numerous sites scattered across the rural and urban landscapes of Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico Counties. 

Our African American heritage includes people of local, state and national prominence. The Beach to Bay Heritage Area has taken the lead in promoting the lower shore’s heritage and hopes to offer a glimpse of the wide variety of roles blacks have had here on shore and to showcase a number of sites and people that have shaped our past.

Many of the sites are a living symbol of the history of the African American experience
in this region.

Photo of Henry’s Hotel

Just a few steps from the Ocean City boardwalk lies a very unassuming building on South Baltimore Avenue across from Trimper Ride. This building, known as Henry’s Hotel, and formerly as Henry’s Colored Hotel, remains one of the oldest buildings in the city. Henry’s Hotel is one of the last surviving hotels that served black visitors to the resort at a time when access was severely restricted. It is reported that famous black entertainers performing in the pier ballroom stayed here. Entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong to name a few. The hotel remains under black ownership today.

Travelling a few miles west of Ocean City on Trappe Road lies the Germantown School. In 1923, this two-room school was erected on the property by the Rosenwald Foundation Rural School Building Program, with matching funds donated by the local community.  The school provided education for children in grades one through seven and the school remained in active use until 1962.  

Photo of Germantown School

Years later, the Board of Education sold the building to the County Highway Association for $1.  Former students and community members regained control of the building in 2002, and revitalized it. By 2013, the renovation of the building was completed and it is now used as a museum and community heritage center.   

Traveling into downtown Berlin, it is hard to miss the large Mural on Commerce Street, also known as Tindley Way. In the summer of 2022, community members partnered with several non-profit organizations to create this mural, a larger-than-life portrait of a man who is arguably the most famous native son of Berlin. The Reverend Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, born in 1851, overcame poverty and slavery to become one of the most influential writers of gospel music, penning the Civil Rights anthem, “We Shall Over-come,” and the song “Stand By Me.” Five of over forty of his hymns appear in the revised Methodist hymnals used worldwide, and he is recognized as “The Godfather of Gospel Music.”

To get a more in-depth view of Tindley’s life head to the Calvin B Taylor House Museum on North Main Street in Berlin. Here, you’ll find not only an exhibit of his life and accomplishments but you can listen to podcasts of Tindley’s views and recollections by voice actor Gregory Purnell.

Jason Beach Trap Pond State Park, Laurel, DE

For generations, the local black community made memories at Jason Beach, located in Trap Pond State Park. Locals fondly remember gathering there to socialize, dance, picnic, and attend church services and baptisms.

While there was no segregation required by law in Delaware’s state park system during the 1950s and 1960s, numerous press accounts and interviews indicate Trap Pond’s beach areas were segregated. Jason Beach was for black visitors; Headquarters Beach (across the pond) was for white
visitors. 302-875-5153

JohnnIE Walker Beach Georgia Avenue, Lewes, DE

Johnnie Walker Beach (formerly known as Beach 2) was renamed in 2021, in honor of Mr. Johnnie Walker. Mr. Walker, born in 1917, was a well known businessman in the Lewes, Delaware region. The beach was a segregated beach for the African American community. The beach had a pavilion for gathering, socializing, dancing, and sharing of meals. The City of Lewes African American Heritage Commission is researching additional historical information regarding Mr. Walker and the history of Johnnie Walker Beach. Much of the information currently known has been provided through oral history and newspaper clippings.

Ross Mansion Quarter Seaford, DE

The Ross Mansion Quarter, on the grounds of the Governor Ross Mansion, is a remarkable and rare artifact documenting a complex, often painful, period of rural life in Delaware; it is the only documented slave dwelling standing in the state. 

302-628-9828 | admin@seafordhistoricalsociety.com 

“Finding Their Voices”: African American History & Legacy of Lewes Walking Tour Lewes, DE

Stroll the picturesque streets of Lewes and learn the stories of the diverse community of residents that have left a longstanding legacy in this historic town by the sea. This 90-minute educational tour explores local landmarks that highlight the importance of this chapter in Lewes’ history. Storytelling enhances the experience, as our knowledgeable guides share compelling accounts handed down over the centuries. Tours begin at the Lewes Historical Society’s 110 Shipcarpenter Street Campus. 302- 645-7670

Voices Heard: African American Oral History Digital Exhibit Lewes, DE

Footage collected in 2022, each a full transcription of thoughts, emotions, and opinions of the Lewes Community who lived through the changing racial and cultural history of the seaside town of Lewes is becoming a new “digital” traveling exhibition set to open in late June of 2023 featuring this unique shared history and perspective of the community. 302-645-7670

Special Events:

Maryland Folk Festival September

Tindley Festival October

Many other sites are worth a trip including:

Sturgis One Room School Museum, Pocomoke City

San Domingo School, Sharptown

Henry’s Beach, Dames Quarters

Church Street Mural & Black History Walking Tour, Salisbury

Crisfield Civil Rights Protests Interpretive Marker, Crisfield

Chipman Cultural Center, Salisbury

Oaksville Ball Park, Oaksville

Judy Johnson Memorial, Snow Hill

Corporal Isaiah Fassett Civil

War Marker, Berlin

Lynching Memorial Marker, Salisbury

Edward H. Nabb Research Center, Salisbury University

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