Belair Aug 25th 1864
Today, Maryland is thought of as the Mid-Atlantic, with barely any relationship to the south. But the fact is that the state is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and before Washington, D.C. brought transplants from all over the United States, I've seen references to suburbs like Kensington and Silver Spring as being "sleepy southern towns." More importantly in the context of today, Maryland Emancipation Day, this was a slave-holding state, a fact that many people seem to forget when talking about Frederick Douglass, a fierce abolitionist who was enslaved and worked in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore City, or Harriet Tubman, a heroic Underground Railroad worker born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. During the Civil War, the state also had
many southern sympathizers, including the man who shot Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth (like Annie Davis, a resident of Bel Air, Maryland).
"Slave Statistics," a record of the enslaved people in Maryland and their owners at the time of emancipation exists for some counties in Maryland, but not for Harford. I haven't been able to find anything else about Annie Davis in a brief search. I want to thank Mr. C.R. Gibbs and the Reginald F. Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture for the Maryland Emancipation Day Lecture, where Mr. Gibbs shared this powerful letter.
If you know the name John T. Ford at all, it's probably because he was the owner of Ford's New Theater, "which acquired such unenviable notoriety as the scene of the assassination of President Lincoln," as one of his obituaries pointed out.
John Ford's life was much bigger than that one night in April 150 years ago.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.