African American veterans will be honored at this year’s Legacy Day weekend, scheduled for August 19-21 in Chestertown. Now in its 9th year of celebrating the history and culture of Kent County’s African American community, Legacy Day is produced by Sumner Hall with the Historical Society of Kent County. It is offered free of charge to the community, thanks to local partners – the Chesapeake Heartland Project of The Starr Center at Washington College; Chestertown RiverArts; Downtown Chestertown Association; Garfield Center for the Arts; the Hedgelawn Foundation; Kent County Economic Development Office; Kent Cultural Alliance; the Sultana Education Foundation; and the Town of Chestertown – and individual and organizational sponsors.
The Legacy Day research committee has documented more than 1,500 African American veterans from Kent County, some from as early as the 1700s. Sumner Hall originated as the Grand Army of the Republic Post #25 for Black veterans of the Union Army in the Civil War. The committee has contacted veterans of more recent conflicts, many of whom are expected to attend and be recognized for their service.
On Monday, August 1, an exhibit, Honoring Kent County’s Black Veterans, will open at the Bordley History Center, 301 High Street, Chestertown. Another preview event is a panel discussion where several veterans will address Racism, Reconciliation and Reward: Experiences of Blacks in Military Life which will be live streamed via Sumner Hall’s Facebook page at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11. During the month of August, Members of the Downtown Chestertown Association will feature historical posters in their windows describing Black Legacies: Kent’s 1800’s Heroes.
The weekend celebration will begin on Friday, Aug. 19, at The Garfield Center for the Arts with an Honorees’ Program and Reception at 6:30 p.m. that will include the story of creating the exhibit by Bill Leary and a reenactment talk by historian Louis Carter. Afterwards, there will be a Dance Party with DJ Real in front of the theater. The Bordley Center exhibit will be open from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and the RiverArts’ exhibit featuring African American artists at its Arts Alive Studio will entertain visitors from 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Light refreshments and drinks will be available.
Saturday, Aug. 20, offers a full program of events, beginning with a 10 a.m. workshop, Preserving Black History, presented by the Chesapeake Heartland Project at Sumner Hall. At 11:30 a.m., Sumner Hall invites honorees and workshop attendees for a box luncheon and conversation. Author Jeff Bolster appears at the Garfield Center at 1 p.m. to talk about his book, Black Jacks, that documents the lives of African American seamen in the age of sailing ships, sponsored by Sultana Education Foundation. At 3:00 p.m.at Sumner Hall, Fight for Freedom, Civil War 360–a historical film on the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of Colored Troops, produced by the Smithsonian Institution – will be screened.
The Saturday program shifts to Wilmer Park, where food and craft vendors will be on hand starting at 3 p.m. Festivities at Wilmer Park include a Greek Stroll Competition at 4 p.m. featuring members of the Divine Nine. Also, a Civil War Encampment of U. S. Colored Troops will be held at Wilmer Park, organized by Louis Carter and sponsored by the 54th Massachusetts, Company B. Opening Ceremonies honoring Kent County’s African American veterans begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by a Dance Party with music byComfort Zone and DJ Real.
Sunday, Aug. 21, the festival weekend concludes with a panel discussion, Discipline, Distinction, Destiny – the role of HBCU’s in the U.S. Military and American Culture, at 12:30 p.m. at Sumner Hall, followed by a 2 p.m. Interfaith Memorial Service at Memorial Park, 200 block of High Street, Chestertown.
Other weekend activities include a Scavenger Hunt with prizes valued at a $100, sponsored by the Downtown Chestertown Association. During the month of August, local merchants will display posters on Kent County African American historical figures from the 1800s with images supplied by the Chesapeake Heartland Project. Each store displaying the posters will have a scavenger hunt ballot. Winners of the scavenger hunt will be awarded at the dance party on August 20th. The RiverArt’s and Bordley Exhibits will also be open on Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.sumnerhall.org for the complete details of all offerings for Legacy Day Weekend 2022!