Blacks of the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland- Foundation for Black History in Maryland.

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“I caught the spirit of the Chesapeake.” —Vincent Leggett 

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This Project has been financed in
part by the Maryland Center for History and Culture's Thomas V. "Mike” Miller History Fund.
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What is Blacks of the Chesapeake?

African-Americans who have worked and continue to work in the maritime and seafood processing industries in the Chesapeake Bay region are an integral part of this area's rich culture and heritage. In 1994, the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation began to document this aspect of Americana. The foundation serves the community with a broad range of historical, cultural and educational activities.

Documentation includes the book, The Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes, which provides a history of African-American contributions in the Chesapeake's maritime industries, and includes a collection of seafood recipes, poetry, photographs and sketches; and the book, Blacks of the Chesapeake, An Integral Part of Maritime History, which provides a pictorial history of African-Americans at work as ship captains, sail makers, watermen, and seafood processing plant employees.

A Vanishing Legacy: Black Captains of the Chesapeake Bay

printed in, November 18, 2021
written by Adam Longo and Kaitlyn McGrath

Boat captains up and down the mid-Atlantic shorelines are preparing to hibernate for the cold, bleak and unproductive winter months. It's a welcomed respite following a grueling summer of twice-a-day fishing tours, reduced numbers due to COVID-19 and less profit compared to bountiful seasons in the past.

It's an unforgiving job. Only the relentless, experienced and most passionate captains will survive, let alone thrive. This year saw even fewer Black captains among their ranks than in the past. 

African-American watermen have seen their numbers in a precipitous decline with few remedies available to turn back a changing tide; one once rich with black culture.   

The first African-Americans saw the idyllic waters of the Chesapeake Bay in the 1600's. The history of this bountiful bay is stocked with enormous contributions from its Black inhabitants. They have been watermen, boat builders, cooks and oyster harvesters.

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Oyster Ninja Podcast-
Vince Leggett

Oyster Ninja Podcast | Listen Notes

Vincent Leggett has been an integral part of salvaging stories, artifacts, and information on African Americans on the Chesapeake Bay for over four decades.  Mr. Leggett has a resumé that includes author, historian, lobbyist, educator and so much more that you will find out in this episode of The Oyster Ninja Podcast.  He explains his humble beginnings that help mold him and set him apart from other young people, and how and why he founded Blacks of the Chesapeake.  This is the first of many conversations and I hope you enjoy. 

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Underground Railroad:
The Secret History

Vince Leggett, “Admiral of the Chesapeake”and Founder Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation is featured in a new docu-series narrated by Actor-Director Clark Johnson. "Underground Railroad: The Secret History," a four-part docu-series, premieres Sunday, Jan. 30, at 10 PM ET on the Science Channel and Streaming on discovery+.

Much of the history of enslaved people in the United States has gone undocumented. Now, cutting-edge technology, and the perseverance of archaeologists and historians, are bringing to light the secret pathways, communities, and outposts that provided refuge to Freedom Seekers. Experts are also uncovering crucial details about the people behind those locations, and the individuals who made these life-changing journeys.

Across the series, viewers will hear from the descendants of Freedom Seekers who add insight with their family history, passed down from generation to generation. Audiences also hear from archaeologists including Dr. Justin Dunnavant of UCLA, Dr. Ayana Omilade Flewellen of UC Riverside, Dr. Cheryl LaRoche of the University of Maryland, Dr. Dan Sayers of American University, Jeffrey Shanks of the National Park Service and Dr. Terrance Weik of University of South Carolina, as well as historians and academics including Vince Leggett, Founder, Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, Anthony Cohen, President of the Menare Foundation, Lisa Fager of the Mt. Zion-FUBS Foundation, Dr. Maria Hammack of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander of Norfolk State University, Dr. Rolonda Teal of Steven F. Austin State University and Dr. Javier Wallace of Duke University. These experts share their research and discoveries, giving valuable context to these stories and helping to solidify the legacies of those who sought freedom on the Underground Railroad.

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Harriet Tubman and
Frederick Douglass

We love everything Harriet & Frederick who are the bookends for the Blacks of the Chesapeake!!!

Please join us on this historic journey of discovery. In 2022, our work will be featured in three documentary films highlighting Harriet Tubman & Frederick Douglass’ connections to the Chesapeake Bay.


Chesapeake Underground: Charting a Course to Freedom

Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are Blacks of the Chesapeake

Their lives were shaped by the bay and its many harbors, rivers, and creeks. Douglass did his work in the light and Tubman labored under a celestial canopy by night. They both were well acquainted with Maryland waterways and used them as a part of their heroic quests for freedom. The remarkable part of their meta narratives is the fact that once they were free, they used their God-given gifts and graces to help others.

Learn more about their lives and others through the Tubman-Douglass Institute for Chesapeake Studies. 

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Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, Inc.
1011 Bay Ridge Ave
Annapolis, MD 21403

(410)461-2623 (BOCF)
(833)321-2623 (BOCF)
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