TRAVELING WHILE BLACK

 

Looking for the Green Book, today.

“We have no African American home open for tourism, but it’s coming in 2021. That is the Maynard-Burgess House,” Janice Hayes-Williams boasted. She is a seventh generation Annapolitan and a living encyclopedia of African American history in the state capital. In a trip down memory lane, Williams explained that the African American community of Annapolis is uncharacteristically long-standing, with generations-old ties to blue collar work at the Naval Academy and longshoremen jobs in “America’s Sailing Capital.” African American labor in the maritime and hospitality industries is integral to the visitor experience of the Chesapeake Bay.

During the early- to mid-1900s, it was hard to miss the thriving Black-owned boarding houses, restaurants, and social clubs. But those establishments have much older histories. In fact, the Maynard-Burgess house near City Hall was purchased in 1847 for $400. The owner, John Maynard, was a freeman whose job as a waiter (possibly at the City Hotel on Main and Conduit Streets) helped him purchase the freedom of his wife. He passed down the home to relatives, who operated it as a boarding house before selling it to Willis Burgess in 1914. The Burgess family held onto it until 1991. Within two years, ownership was transferred to the City of Annapolis. Nearly 30 years later, the Maryland Historical Trust and the City plan to open it as a tourist attraction and an exhibit space, showcasing Black life in the 19th and 20th centuries. This will be the latest in a spate of ongoing efforts by the City and the State to recognize Annapolis’s Black cultural history.