The Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation Local Legacy Collection takes its name from the honor BOCF received in 2000 from The Smithsonian American Folk Life Center and United States Library of Congress, which designated the foundation as a “Local Legacy Project.”
This irreplaceable, extensive collection began as a labor of love 35 years ago for BOCF founder Vincent Leggett. He sought to capture, document, and chronicle African American life along the reaches of the Chesapeake Bay, before time and evolving generations allowed it to float away.
The photographic collection alone includes more than 40,000 images portraying Black water workers and their boats, their harvests, their lifestyle, their families, and their efforts in keeping Maryland’s seafood and maritime industries thriving.
The Local Legacy Collection’s ephemera archive is equivalent to more than 400 linear feet of material records, broadsides, research papers, books, magazines, journals, and articles. Audiovisual materials include home videos, cassette tapes, and VHS recordings. The collection also is rich with visual art: prints, commissioned artworks, entertainment memorabilia, and personal artifacts.
BOCF has made the Local Legacy Collection available to scholars, researchers, educators, and students. BOCF has constantly received inquiries for materials from genealogical societies; educational, historical, cultural, and environmental organizations; and history professionals to augment research projects, lectures, podcasts, and exhibits. Most prominently, resources from the collection have been featured in nationally broadcasted documentary film projects, locally produced television programs, and radio cover stories.
The core of the collection documents the 1980s to the present. As priceless as this 40-year archive is today, BOCF sees the need to preserve it and multiply its value decades from now. Through a generous grant from the Maryland Center for History and Culture, BOCF is collaborating with the Maryland State Archives, Johns Hopkins University, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and Digital Maryland to inventory, catalog, and digitize the entirety of the collection.
Although this multi-year endeavor is underway, progress is difficult due to a lack of staffing, and the future is unguaranteed due to the limits of current financial resources. Since 2020, the Maryland State Archives’ staff has provided support in the areas archival training, library science, and collections management to BOCF members, community volunteers, high school, college and university-level graduate students, and professional practitioners. The mutual goal is to preserve these unforgotten stories with modern-day technology, and continue honoring the legacy and achievements of African Americans of the Chesapeake.