Friends of Tolson's Chapel

Friends of Tolson's Chapel Tolson's Chapel was built in 1866 by the African American community in Sharpsburg, MD and served as a Freedmen's Bureau school 1868-1870. The chapel is open 10-4 the first Saturday April through October.
Friends of Tolson's Chapel (FOTC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit association established in 2006. Donations are gratefully accepted: Friends of Tolson's Chapel P.O. Box 162 Sharpsburg, MD 21782
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Temporarily closed

PreserveCast
08/11/2020
PreserveCast

PreserveCast

[TODAY'S EPISODE] Few names have become as synonymous with grit, determination, and liberty as Harriet Tubman.

A Moses for her people, Tubman has become an almost mythical character who represents the best of the American spirit in the face of incredible suffering and inhumanity.

Yet, for many years, she lacked a rigorous and scholarly biography...

Today’s guest, Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, addressed that historical inequity and helped bring Harriet’s real story to a new generation.

We’re heading back to the brackish marshes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to talk Tubman, slavery, and freedom.

#tellthefullstory #harriettubman #undergroundrailroad #publichistory #maryland #easternshore #preservemd #preservecast

On April 6, 1868, the "American Union" School opened in Tolson's Chapel in Sharpsburg, Maryland, with a teacher from Phi...
06/12/2020

On April 6, 1868, the "American Union" School opened in Tolson's Chapel in Sharpsburg, Maryland, with a teacher from Philadelphia supplied by the Freedmen's Bureau. Eighteen children were in attendance, twelve of them had been enslaved before the Civil War.

Sounds like a great series!
06/08/2020
Free Negro League baseball history programs scheduled

Sounds like a great series!

More than a dozen free virtual programs on the history of the Negro Leagues are scheduled for this summer and fall. They mark the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues as well as the 75th anniversary of the Cleveland Buckeyes' World Series win.

06/05/2020

As stewards of Tolson’s Chapel, a building that embodies the history of the African American experience through the century following the Civil War, we, the Board of Directors of the Friends of Tolson’s Chapel feel compelled to express our support for open dialogue and reform in American race relations. We stand with the peaceful protesters who ask for honest acknowledgement of America’s failure to live up to the principles of freedom and justice for its African American citizens, who ask for meaningful reforms in this country’s deeply flawed justice system. We condemn acts of racism, violence, and vandalism from every sector of society.

Since Africans first arrived on the shores of the American continent, they have suffered and died at the hands of oppressive and often violent white authority. Some believed that the outcome of the American Civil War might solve the problem of racial injustice, but the experience of African American citizens through Reconstruction and segregation – including the men, women, and children who peopled Tolson’s Chapel through the years – was the opposite. Throughout the last century and a half, life for African Americans has been a daily struggle for acknowledgement of their humanity from their white neighbors, teachers, employers, politicians, and the very people sworn to protect them, the police. The injustice must stop.

African American citizens deserve better. Their progeny deserve better. No citizen of this great country should have to live in a constant state of hypervigilance simply because of the color of their skin. It is time for us to shape a new era in American history and to live up to our Declaration that “all men are created equal.”

Edie Wallace, ZSun-nee Matema, Bridgett Jones Smith, Renee Emanuel, Elyssa Doub, Bill Maharay, Denise Troxell, Paula Reed, Mark Brugh, Christopher Stapleton

This is an excellent resource from the National Museum of African American History and Culture if you are wondering what...
06/02/2020
Talking About Race

This is an excellent resource from the National Museum of African American History and Culture if you are wondering what you can do about racism in America. The buck stops with each of us!

Who Am I? I Am an Educator Whether you are teaching infants, adults, or any age in between, you are an influential part of your students’ learning and development. Educators too have an important role in communicating our history and culture. What and how the history of race in America is presente...

Friends of Tolson's Chapel's cover photo
05/08/2020

Friends of Tolson's Chapel's cover photo

Mary Virginia Cook was born in Sharpsburg in 1909, the daughter of George and Margaret Cook. She attended the Sharpsburg...
04/02/2020

Mary Virginia Cook was born in Sharpsburg in 1909, the daughter of George and Margaret Cook. She attended the Sharpsburg Colored School on High St. for her elementary education, then attended Storer College for her secondary education. Virginia Cook worked at Fairchild Aircraft Industries during WWII and until her retirement. She died in 1996, the last member of Tolson's Chapel still living in Sharpsburg. She is remembered fondly by her Sharpsburg neighbors as a kind and gentle woman who worked tirelessly for the support of Tolson's Chapel. ❤️

Margaret Ellen King was the daughter of George Hamilton King and Mary Virginia (Calaman) King. About 1900 she married Ge...
04/01/2020

Margaret Ellen King was the daughter of George Hamilton King and Mary Virginia (Calaman) King. About 1900 she married George C. Cook (son of William and Emily Cook), who operated a barbershop in Sharpsburg. Margaret and George lived on Mechanic St. and had three children by 1920, Mary Virginia (age 10), Earl H. (8), Carl T. (6; later a barber).

We are going to start posting photos and information about some of the awesome women of Tolson's Chapel.First up, Jane S...
03/31/2020

We are going to start posting photos and information about some of the awesome women of Tolson's Chapel.

First up, Jane Sinclair. She was enslaved on the Stephen P. Grove farm west of Sharpsburg and was emancipated in 1864 by the new Maryland constitution. Jane had two children, Harry and Emily. Emily married William C. Cook of Sharpsburg; they were the grandparents of Virginia Cook.

03/23/2020

Sadly, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, our planned first open house of the season on April 4 is canceled. Stay tuned for updates and stay safe!

FOTC was the recipient of two AAHPP grants in 2013 and 2015 that funded our cemetery assessment/restoration, conservatio...
03/12/2020
State of Maryland Awards $1 Million in Grants through the African American Heritage Preservation Program - Preservation Maryland

FOTC was the recipient of two AAHPP grants in 2013 and 2015 that funded our cemetery assessment/restoration, conservation of the liquid slate blackboards, and restoration of the historic shutters. We are happy to see so many new projects happening across the state of Maryland!

Earlier this month, the Hogan administration announced that 12 Maryland nonprofits were recently awarded nearly $1 million in funds by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture (MCAAHC) and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT). The goal of the African American Heritage Preservat...

Boyd K Rutherford
03/10/2020

Boyd K Rutherford

Today is Harriet Tubman Day, in honor of the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. Maryland is proud to be the home state of Tubman and many of history’s most prominent African American heroes and icons. Earlier this year, I joined Governor Hogan and other leaders in Annapolis for the unveiling of the new Harriet Tubman statue in our historic State House. If you haven't yet visited the new statue, I highly recommend it during your next visit to Maryland's capital city.

Happy 155th Anniversary to America's Freedmen's Bureau Schools! The Friends of Tolson's Chapel are proud of the dedicate...
03/03/2020

Happy 155th Anniversary to America's Freedmen's Bureau Schools! The Friends of Tolson's Chapel are proud of the dedicated restoration work to Tolson's Freedmen's School conducted since 2003. We have captured the 1866 vision of the African American community of Sharpsburg who felt the necessity of having their children and some adults benefit from a more formal education. Join us at Tolson's and take a tour of the Freedmen's Bureau School that gave the Sharpsburg MD African American community their first place of learning.

Here's a little background on the Freedmen's Bureau School.

"In the years following the Civil War, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau) provided assistance to tens of thousands of former slaves and impoverished whites in the Southern States and the District of Columbia. The war had liberated nearly four million slaves and destroyed the region's cities, towns, and plantation-based economy. It left former slaves and many whites dislocated from their homes, facing starvation, and owning only the clothes they wore. The challenge of establishing a new social order, founded on freedom and racial equality, was enormous.

The Bureau was established in the War Department in 1865 to undertake the relief effort and the unprecedented social reconstruction that would bring freed people to full citizenship. It issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and temporary camps, helped locate family members, promoted education, helped freedmen legalize marriages, provided employment, supervised labor contracts, provided legal representation, investigated racial confrontations, settled freedmen on abandoned or confiscated lands, and worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments, and pensions".
...African American Records, National Archives

Tolson’s Chapel: March 1, 2020. Taken from S. Mechanic Street. The view is opened up these days.
03/01/2020

Tolson’s Chapel: March 1, 2020. Taken from S. Mechanic Street. The view is opened up these days.

Our annual membership meeting for election of the board of directors will be held Wednesday, March 11, at 5:30 at the Bo...
02/25/2020

Our annual membership meeting for election of the board of directors will be held Wednesday, March 11, at 5:30 at the Boonsboro Library, 401 Potomac Street, Boonsboro MD.

After the election of members to the board, the board will elect a president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary.

Members with 2020 dues paid are entitled to vote.

Community Foundation of Washington County MD, Inc.
02/25/2020

Community Foundation of Washington County MD, Inc.

Friends of Tolson's Chapel created a new agency fund at the Community Foundation to provide financial support for current initiatives of the chapel and school in Sharpsburg. Their mission is to preserve and interpret its history and people within the national context of reconstruction and segregation in American history. To learn more, visit their website at: https://tolsonschapel.org/ at #AgencyFund #VolunteerNonprofit

The Jon S. Randal Peace Page
02/25/2020

The Jon S. Randal Peace Page

He remembers late one night, at the age of 16, he got lost, trying to find a dry cleaners in Miami. He ended up in a white, middle-class neighborhood. He was making his way back to “colored town”, when an unmarked police car pulled up.

The police officer told him, “See that alley over there, boy? Get your ass up in there. Now.”

There was no one else around, he remembered. He later wrote, "whatever happened, there would be no witnesses. When I turned back around, I saw the muzzle of a revolver sticking through the open rear window on the driver’s side, pointed at my head. Through that open window I could hear the dialogue inside the vehicle: “What should we do with this boy?” “Find out what he’s doing over here.” “Should we shoot him here?”

"I could see that the hammer of the gun was cocked, and I was scared out of my mind — but mad too, furious at what appeared to be their need to belittle me. I told them about taking the bus to the dry-cleaning plant, about trying to get my stuff, but the talk in the car only got meaner as the questioning intensified. The officer behind the wheel said, “Boy, if we let you go, you think you can walk all the way home without looking back once?” “Yes, sir.” I replied. “Think about it now,” he challenged. “‘Cuz if you look back, just once, we gonna shoot you. Think you can do that?” “Yes, sir,” I reassured him. “All right, you go ahead now. We’ll be right behind you.”

He walked 50 blocks to his side of town, with the police car following him all the way.

He would soon learn he was no longer in the safe confines of his beloved Bahamas, where he was raised where he didn't have to think about the color of his skin, "not any more than I would have bothered to wonder why the sand was white or the sky was blue. But outside the island of my early years, a world was waiting that would focus on my color to the exclusion of all else."

This is part of an on-going series celebrating Black History Month on the Peace Page.

He was born on February 20, 1927 in Miami to a pair of poor immigrant tomato farmers from the Bahamas, the descendant of Haitians who had been formerly enslaved. As an infant, he weighed only 3 lbs., his parents thought he wouldn't be strong enough to survive.

He did survive and was raised on Cat Island in the Bahamas.

He said, "I was taught that I had basic rights as a human being. I was taught that I was someone. I knew we had no money...still, I was taught that I was someone. We had no electricity, no running water, still I was taught that I was someone. I had very little education...Still I knew I was someone."

At the age of 14, he returned to Miami, then after another encounter with white supremacy, he moved to New York.

He worked hard to prove himself, that he was "someone." After briefly serving in the army, he did odd jobs, including working as a dishwasher at a restaurant, hoping one day he would receive his chance. There were stories that at times he had to sleep in a bathroom at a bus station just to get by.

One day, he decided, to try out for the North American Negro Theater, and, after initially getting marched toward the door for wasting the time of the founder of the theater, he worked harder and returned, this time succeeding.

By 1967, he was one of the most popular actors at the box office. In one of his roles, according to the script, a white man, a racist, slaps him in the face. He was not supposed to retaliate, but he courageously requested a change in the script, insisting on playing his characters with dignity.

In the movie that came out, the racist slaps him. But, with the change he insisted, he slaps the racist back.

"This was the slap heard round the world,” according to director Norman Jewison - when the racist plantation owner Endicott slaps detective Virgil Tibbs in "In the Heat of the Night", and Mr. Tibbs, portrayed by Sidney Poitier, slaps him back.

"A black man had never slapped a white man back in an American film. We broke that taboo," said Jewison.

Poitier would break another taboo, when he and a white woman, playing his fiancee, kissed, starring in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, released the year the Supreme Court struck down laws in more than a dozen states that banned mixed-race marriages.

"In the Heat of the Night", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", and another film, "To Sir, with Love", all came out in 1967, all of which dealt with issues involving race and race relations at a time when racial tensions were dividing the nation.

Poitier would make a name for himself in the business, but outside, in the real world, it was different. He remembers one time walking into a restaurant, dressed in a tuxedo. The maître d' said, “May I help you?”

In his autobiography, "The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography", Poitier recalls,, saying, “Yes, I’d like a table.”

"I saw his eyes widen a bit. 'Are you alone?' he asked.

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Mr. Poitier, I’m sorry. I could give you a table, but we’re going to have to put a screen around you.”

And I said to him, “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s the practice here; it’s the law.”

Another time he remembers while working on a film, a studio attorney calls him into his office and points out that since he has been seen with the likes of fellow performer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, he needed to sign a loyalty oath.

Poitier remembers thinking, "I live in a city in which I’ve been rebuffed at the doors of many restaurants, a city where Josephine Baker gets turned away and barred from fashionable nightclubs.I’m living with the constant reminder that the law of this land once declared me to be three-fifths of a human being, and that only one hundred years earlier the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court had declared people of my race to be “so inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Everywhere I look, everywhere I turn, every attempt I make to articulate myself as otherwise is met with resistance, and here this guy is saying to me, “We want you to swear your loyalty.”

"Poitier stuck to his principles . . . becoming an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He welcomed well-known activists to his home, traveled with fellow activist Harry Belafonte to the south for Freedom Summer and stood alongside protestors for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington. He would also attend Dr. King’s funeral five years later," according to Essence.

According to the New York Times, Poitier also turned down offers to play subservient characters, like butlers, because he rejected how Hollywood stereotyped his race.

He became the first black actor to receive an Oscar for his portrayal of a former GI in "Lillies of the Field." He was also nominated for a Tony Award in the 1960 Broadway production of "A Raisin in the Sun."

“I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every movie I made,” he once wrote.

In 1968, after Dr. King was killed, Poitier, Diahann Carol, Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr. announced that they would not attend the Academy Awards, which was to be held just four days later. The academy decided to respect their wishes and delayed the ceremony.

In 2006, he received the Marian Anderson Award in recognition of his humanitarian and diplomatic work.

In August of 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor and called one of the agents of change.

Poitier, the White House said, "left an indelible mark on American culture" and "would advance the nation's dialogue on race and respect."

[Photo from the New York Times]

Address

111 E High St
Sharpsburg, MD
21782

General information

Tolson's Chapel is open for tours the first Saturday of every month, April through October. Hours are 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Opening Hours

Saturday 10:00 - 16:00

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Comments

In meeting with the Education Committee, two words came up that had great power concerning what visitors can learn from Tolsons Chapel. One was “real” as in real people, real times, real places as we face our history. The other was “magical,” which was such a contrast to the times of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow. How do these two words come to expand the Tolson’s Chapel’s educational theme of “community?” I got my answer listening to the final words of John Lewis, speaking about learning from our own history. His ancestors were freed after the Civil War much like the original community of Tolson’s. He first found his ancestor’s names on a voting roster artifact created soon after they were freed, which brought him to tears during an episode of “Finding your Roots.” Imagine fighting your whole life for the right for your community to vote and realizing that that inspiration came from generations of pursuit and perseverance before him. He explains how important his community was but that community was threatened in the days of Emmitt Till (his George Floyd). This drove him to reach out to MLK where he launched a lifetime of fighting for Social Justice for ALL. Tolson’s Chapel represents the few remaining community learning centers still standing that represents a pivotal time in American History and beyond. It is a global symbol of how community can change the world if only we face the truth of the past to define OUR truths for the future. John Lewis’s spirit and teachings of community were so real AND magical! I hope we can be so inspiring for future generations! Edie Wallace James Fitch Janice Davis Dana Mott Margie Forbes Richard Stone Steve Lewis Michael La Fleur ZSun-nee Kimball Matema Jerome James Jr. Tom Furness Cindy Cotto Grimes Jennifer Musumeci
I thought friends of this page may be interested in the new FB page for the historic Halfway African American Cemetery, a nearly-lost cemetery that we're working to restore.
I'm a Minister and member of the choir of Ebenezer AME Church in Hagerstown. And last summer we were honored to sing in this beautiful little church. Also the Pastor of our church performed a Christmas program here this past December.
We, at Tolson's Chapel are very proud of the restoration work accomplished on our historic Chapel and Freedmen's School. Today we celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the Freedmen's Bureau Act. We invite you to visit us and enjoy the work of those who first built Tolson's Chapel in 1866. Some were just released from enslavement and some were free. With love, devotion and dedication, the Friends of Tolson's worked to restore the building beginning in 2003. Happy 85th! A little background on the Freedmen's Bureau Act: "In the years following the Civil War, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau) provided assistance to tens of thousands of former slaves and impoverished whites in the Southern States and the District of Columbia. The war had liberated nearly four million slaves and destroyed the region's cities, towns, and plantation-based economy. It left former slaves and many whites dislocated from their homes, facing starvation, and owning only the clothes they wore. The challenge of establishing a new social order, founded on freedom and racial equality, was enormous. The Bureau was established in the War Department in 1865 to undertake the relief effort and the unprecedented social reconstruction that would bring freed people to full citizenship. It issued food and clothing, operated hospitals and temporary camps, helped locate family members, promoted education, helped freedmen legalize marriages, provided employment, supervised labor contracts, provided legal representation, investigated racial confrontations, settled freedmen on abandoned or confiscated lands, and worked with African American soldiers and sailors and their heirs to secure back pay, bounty payments, and pensions." ...African American records, National Archives
There's no other way to describe Tolson's Chapel other than SACRED . . . SPECIAL. It's a must see anytime of year!