Cummings Family

Henry Cummins (c. 1827-1906) was one of fifteen enslaved individuals surnamed Cummins at White Marsh farm, a property owned by Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely of Hampton in 1829. Under the terms of Ridgely’s will, Cummins was freed when he reached the age of 28. He moved from White Marsh into Baltimore City, where worked as a cook at Guy's Monument House, a large and fashionable hotel across from the Battle Monument on Calvert Street. Cummins eventually became a successful chef and caterer. In 1863, he married Eliza Jane Davage (1843-1914), whose parents had been freed from enslavement at Perry Hall plantation. By the 1870s, Henry Cummings (as him name came to be spelled) demonstrated an interest in politics and public life. In 1879, he was elected to be a delegate to the Maryland's Republican Party nominating convention from the 12th election district of Baltimore City.

In addition to raising and seeing to the education of her eight children, Eliza Jane Cummings was a seamstress and ran a boarding house at the family's residences so that those children could go on to higher education. Four of their five sons and one of their three daughters went to college, a remarkable achievement for that time. Active in both in her church and local organizations which enhanced the welfare and education of Baltimore's African American citizens, she was a suffrage leader and founder of both the Aged Men and Women’s Home and the Empty Stockings Club, a Christmas gifts delivery event for the community’s underprivileged. Eliza also followed in the family's tradition of political activism, delivering speeches across the eastern half of the country in support of amendments to enhance and protect the rights of African Americans.

Harry Cummings, son of Henry Cummings
Harry Sythe Cummings, son of Henry Cummins and first African American elected to Baltimore City Council


Harry Sythe Cummings (1866-1917), was the second son of Henry Cummings (c. 1827-1906), who had begun life enslaved at White Marsh farm by Governor CCR of Hampton. Born a free man, Harry eventually became truly famous in his day and very possibly was the most well-known African American in the city of Baltimore at the time.Harry S. Cummings’ education was the foremost priority of his mother Eliza Jane Davage Cummings, who worked hard as a seamstress and running a boarding house to assist chef Henry in providing for the family. After attending local public schools, Harry graduated at age nineteen from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He then became the one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the University of Maryland Law School in 1889.

Harry's career and achievements grew rapidly from this auspicious beginning. At the young age of 24 in 1890, he ran successfully for the City Council in Baltimore, thereby becoming the first African American to serve on that body. He was reelected a number of times in 1891, 1897, and 1907-1917. Harry became very active in Republican politics for the state of Maryland as well as Baltimore city, speaking to enthusiastic crowds wherever he went. This led to the pinnacle of his national political recognition when he was asked to deliver a seconding speech for President Theodore Roosevelt at the 1904 Republican Party Convention in Chicago.


Ida R. Cummings (1867-1958) was one of eight children of Henry and Eliza Jane Davage Cummings. Her father had been enslaved by Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely of Hampton and was freed by the terms of the Governor’s will in the mid-1850s. Ida graduated from local Baltimore public high schools and soon afterward became an elementary school teacher at segregated schools in Baltimore County and City. By 1893, she was a teacher and assistant principal at Sparrow’s Point Colored School. Promotion of early education was paramount to her, and she is widely recognized as the first African American kindergarten teacher in Baltimore City. In the U.S. Census for 1900, Ida’s occupation was listed as “kindergardeness.”

Ida Cummings later graduated from what is now Morgan State University. She became that school's first female trustee, among numerous other boards of charitable organizations. She was elected to offices in the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs in the 1910s. Active in the Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church, she served as president of the Colored Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle, an organization serving the city's poor Black children which had been founded by her mother. Retiring from teaching at age 70, Ida was still civically active and in 1938 was appointed by Maryland Governor Harry Nice to the Board of Managers for the Cheltenham School for Boys. After a lifetime as an educator and in service to the community, Ida R. Cummings died in November 1958 on Druid Hill Avenue, where the Cummings family had resided since 1900.



  • African American women, named Ida, her left hand is on her chin and her right hand is on her chin.
    Ida R. Cummings

    Ida R. Cummings and the Cummings family played a huge role for civil rights in the Baltimore and Towson area.

  • A photo of an African American man, Harry, leaning to the left, with a bowtie on. A formal photo.
    Harry Sythe Cummings

    Harry Sythe Cummings, first African American elected to Baltimore City Council.

  • African American man holding a wheelbarrow outside of the mansion
    Enslaved People

    Hampton was the second largest plantation in Maryland. Learn about the struggle, hardships, and lives of the enslaved.

  • African American Woman, Nancy Davis, and little white girl Eliza Ridgely
    Learn about more
    People of Hampton

    Hundreds of people lived, worked, and were enslaved at Hampton coinciding America's development as a nation. Explore more of their stories.


Learn More

  • Enslaved workers working on the plantation farm by the overseer's house and slave quarters.
    Slavery at Hampton

    From the colonial period through 1864, the Ridgelys enslaved over 500 people. Enslaved persons, from young children to the elderly

  • Artist depiction of the iron making process.
    Working Conditions

    Accounts of the working conditions of the forced labor iron works.

  • An artist's depiction of an overseer in the fields watching the enslaved. With a whip behind back.
    Forms of Control

    From physical to mental abuse for the youngest ages to the oldest. Learn about the harsh truths and forms of control.

  • c. 1897 image of a tenant farmer woman outside the Enslavement Quarters. NPS
    Revealing the Lives of the Enslaved

    A recent Ethnographic Study uncovered major information on the lives of those enslaved at Hampton and their descendants. Read about it here.

  • A historic picture of a part of the flower gardens called a parterre. A gardener in the middle. NPS
    History & Culture
    History & Culture

    Hampton National Historic Site today preserves the core of what was once a vast commercial, industrial, and agricultural plantation.

Last updated: June 10, 2024

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