Union Baptist To Host Unity Day Program

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We’re invited to a special event on Jan. 21, 2019, at Union Baptist Church in Eastville, at 2 p.m. On a day Americans collectively recognize and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his ideals, we can remember all those who have struggled and continue to struggle for equity, understanding, and freedom, with a program led by my dear friend and colleague, Kellee Green Blake.

Two summers ago we spent countless hours poring over the collections of community historian, Frances Bibbins Latimer, discovering and organizing one artifact after another for George Latimer who donated the archives to the Eastern Shore Public Library. Like the archives themselves and my relationship with the Latimers, Kellee’s immersion in the work was an invaluable delight as she guid-ed and taught this non-historian and we exchanged ideas.

The retired Director of the National Archives, Mid-Atlantic Division, Kellee Blake, has extensively researched the Shore’s Civil War history and will share information regarding the African-American Shoremen who served in the USCT — African-American men who enlisted to serve in the Civil War — and specifically those that fought with the 10th Infantry, a regiment of 800 men.

This welcome by Pastor George and First Lady Bright is no small thing. A predominantly African-American church, Union Baptist was the first church and school for black people on the Eastern Shore, pastored by Caleb James Burris, who was born into slavery and purchased his own freedom with the help of his friends. Free men, John and Samuel Bibbins agreed to live in bondage until he could return to pay the man who owned him. Caleb Burris became the first ordained African-American minister on the Shore and with members of the Watson, Baker, Collins, Harmonson, Solomon, Church, Fitchett, Taswell, and Bibbins families, Union Baptist was founded in 1865. Six or more soldiers who served the USCT are buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church, including the ancestors of another young friend and historian, Bobby Harmon.

Join us on Unity Day to listen, learn, and get to know your neighbors. The event is free and refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall after the program.

Karen Hatch, Eastville