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Following in the Footsteps of Frederick Douglass

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

By Betty Mack

On November 8, 2018, the Frederick Douglass 200, Anne Arundel planning group was presented with the Heritage Tourism Collaboration Award by the Four Rivers Heritage Area. The FD 200 group represented the county by planning a variety of activities following the governor’s proclamation declaring 2018 as the “Year of Frederick Douglass” in Maryland. With the State theme: “Following In His Footsteps”, John Kille, Anthony Spencer and Betty Mack were charged to create a student-centered program that inspired research, introspection and artistic creativity by youth throughout the county. This initial group was joined by April Nyman (Executive Director, Arts Council of Anne Arundel County and Eleni Dystra (Visual Arts Coordinator, Anne Arundel County Public Schools). The Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society, Inc. accepted the challenge of crafting a competitive program design and invited other community organizations to help with the development of the program. The Creative Arts Competition (CAC) project was formed, and all Anne Arundel County students in grades 4 to 12 in public, private and home schools in the county were invited to apply.

In May 2018, the CAC announcement was released through the county public school communication system that also reaches all private and home school sites. The responses were minimal until the September 2018 school term began. The competition deadline was extended until October 6, 2018, with three informal conversation sessions with students and parents in North County, at St. Mark Church in Hanover, at the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, and at the Galesville Community Center in South County. On October 4th – 6th many students and parents brought their parental consent forms and art work to the Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis to meet the deadline. For this inaugural program the expected response from students was cautiously low. We were pleased to receive 59 student applicants: 42 elementary students, 10 middle school students and 7 high school students. The students were invited to explore the life of Frederick Douglass, write a 1-page description of how his life inspired them and create art work – by drawing, painting, photography, creating a video, creating a story book or creating a quilt or garment. With a 1st place winner prize at each school level, the competition was 3–tiered, including 4th and 5th grades (Elementary school), 6th – 8th grades (Middle School), and 9th – 12th grades (High school). The Ann Arrundell County Historical Society and the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation provided the prize money for the 1st place winners. On November 9, at the Chesapeake Art Center in Brooklyn Park, all submitted work was displayed in a showcase format, with small note books provided for the audience of parents and attendees to write inspirational remarks for each student. During the showcase, the Brooklyn Park Middle School music and performing arts students provided acapella renditions of popular musical selections. Guest pianist, Andrew Kille, provided popular musical selections on piano.

Jett Stephens - 1 of 59 CAC winning student artists

Figure 1. Jett Stephens - 1 of 59 CAC winning student artists.

The awards celebration emcee was Professor Dale Green, Chair of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and Professor of Preservation Architecture at Morgan State University (Fig. 1). Professor Greene informed the students and audience members that he was doubly proud to be their emcee due to his relationship as a seventh generation cousin of Frederick Douglass, also born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He first introduced Jett Omari Stephens, a student contestant, who gave the “Occasion” statement to the audience that responded with a standing ovation. Professor Green then introduced all student contestants individually, invited them to the stage for a congratulatory handshake, a certificate of congratulations and a “FD 200 CAC” bag with prize items including a Chesapeake Art Center membership and Douglass’ book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, inside. Also in each bag was “a special keepsake” item: an un-circulated “quarter dollar”, ($.25 cents) with Frederick Douglass’ image and his house “Cedar Hill” in Washington, DC, engraved on it. Parents, students and community members expressed pleasure for this experience and the students’ impressive art work.

Many thanks to the thirteen sponsoring organizations that helped to develop and support this program: Ann Arrundell County Historical Society, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Anne Arundel County Trust For Preservation, Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, Banneker- Douglass Museum, Chesapeake Arts Center, Four Rivers Heritage Area, Galesville Community Center, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Maryland State Archives, Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society and Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center.

Special thanks to our gracious donors: Frederick Douglass Museum of Highland Beach; Mr. Robert Dews; Judge and Mrs. Clayton Greene, Jr.; Judge and Mrs. William P. Greene, Jr.; The Grill at Quarterfield Station; Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Mack; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Miller; The Nomads of Annapolis; Mr. Midgett Parker; Mr. and Mrs. Westley Sholes; Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Spencer, Ms. B. Yvonne Wilson, and Anne Arundel County Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Download Full Publication - Anne Arundel County History Notes Vol.XLVIV No. 4

Anne Arundel County History Notes Vol. XLVIV
Download PDF • 2.43MB

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