Historic African American Communities

Early History of Local
African American Communities

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, freed men and women in Montgomery County established dozens of African American settlements, but few remain intact today. A symbol of hope and faith, the church was the first institution established in a new black community, usually followed by a school and a charity hall. Fortunately, many of our historic landmark churches still proudly stand as cornerstones of their communities.

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“Community Cornerstones:
African American Communities
in Montgomery County”

“Community Cornerstones” Video

Between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, 40 African American churches were constructed in Montgomery County. In these cornerstones of their communities, generations of black families created their own spiritual, social and educational opportunities.

Heritage Montgomery has produced a 60-minute documentary featuring five of these church communities: Community Cornerstones: African American Communities in Montgomery County, Maryland and an accompanying music CD, “Songs of Praise, The Choirs of Community Cornerstones.”

The 60-minute documentary DVD plus an hour-long music CD featuring performances by the churches’ gospel choirs and ensembles are available in a boxed set for $30. To order, click here or call HM.

DVD & CD Credit Information

Community Cornerstones DVD Extras Credit Information
Songs of Praise: The Choirs of Community Cornerstones Credit Information

Community Cornerstones Brochure

Heritage Montgomery has produced a 34-page Community Cornerstones brochure featuring the stories of 24 unique historic churches and their communities in Montgomery County. Use this brochure as a guide to learn more about sites you may pass every day, unaware of their meaningful histories.

Community Cornerstones Interviews

Due to the time constraints of a 60-minute video, only portions of the extensive interviews with church community members could be included in the DVD. We are happy to offer these complete interviews with elders from Emory Grove, Jerusalem-Mt. Pleasant, Pleasant View, Sharp Street & St. Paul in their entirety.

HM’s African American
Heritage Projects

Archiving Project

Heritage Montgomery has received a county Historic Preservation Grant to catalog, digitize, stabilize, and protect historic documents and photographs in the collections of local African American church communities. Working with Maryland State Archives (MSA), HM has developed protocols that are being used locally and can be applied to similar projects across the State and nation. Pleasant View and Warren historic sites will serve as initial test cases.

On June 11, HM conducted an intake session of materials from Pleasant View. Under the supervision of HM and MSA staff, our Montgomery College intern is cataloging and digitizing the collection. When the work is complete, the original records along with a digitized copy will be returned to Pleasant View, and MSA will retain a digitized copy for their collection.

Both Heritage Montgomery and the Maryland State Archives are excited to use these protocols for collections throughout the heritage area – and the State.

African American Heritage Cookbook

Inspired by the stories of our “Community Cornerstones: African American Communities in Montgomery County” video project (see below), Heritage Montgomery has produced the African American Heritage Cookbook.

The cookbook is a unique way to discover Maryland heritage foodways – the intersection food in culture, traditions, and history – and bring attention to the rich cultural heritage of these local historic communities. It contains authentic Maryland recipes dating from the 1700-1800s as well as those collected from local church communities highlighting foods served at family and community gatherings like Homecoming and Juneteenth.

Introductions to each chapter give an in-depth look at daily life in turn-of-the-century Montgomery County through firsthand accounts and narratives collected by historian Dr. George McDaniel in the 1970s.

Read Cookbook Introduction here…

The African American Heritage Cookbook is available to purchase on the Gift Shop page. Profits from sales are being donated to the participating church communities to help support this important part of Montgomery County history.

In the News …

New Interactive Map of Montgomery County-Designated African American Historic Sites and Districts (Montgomery Planning/Montgomery Parks)

1870s Poolesville Cabin Built by Former Slaves Moved to New National Museum of African American History & Culture (Washington Post, 8/24/16)
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Historic Black Communities Are Dying Out, with Gwen Hebron Reese Interview (Washington Post, 3/27/15)
Read Article