People of Hampton

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


Hampton National Historic Site can best be understood through the story of its people—those who labored across centuries, and a family who gained wealth, status, and influence from that labor over seven generations. Engage with personal stories from the communities that labored at the ironworks, in the fields, on the docks and aboard ships, in gardens and orchards, and inside the mansion making Hampton a microcosm of the story of America. Enslaved People, Indentured Servants, free Black laborers, free artisans, tradesmen, convict laborers and British prisoners of war all worked on a plantation that was both an industrial site and an agricultural enterprise.

Enslaved hands dug the foundation for Hampton mansion, the luxurious showplace whose walls still echo with historical debates and diversions of the Ridgely family and their guests. The lavish backdrop can sometimes mask the stories of those who struggled for freedom. One of these is the story of Henry Cummins, an enslaved young man forced to labor at the Ridgely’s White Marsh Farm. He went on to gain employment at one of Baltimore City’s leading hotels, eventually established a career as a renowned chef. The National Park Service has begun utilizing oral histories and an ethnographic overview assessment in order to bring the stories of Cummins, as well as many other enslaved laborers, to light. Read more about the stories of the Enslaved and their descendants by reading our Ethnographic Study.

Charles Carnan Ridgely
Painting of Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely by C. G. Stapko after Thomas Sully.


The Ridgely family, who owned the estate, featured many family members who were accomplished in a wide variety of endeavors and interests. This included a governor of Maryland, a horticulturist who transformed Hampton’s garden and grounds, a missionary who founded a school for young women in Africa, an artist and antiquarian who researched and wrote books on Maryland history and architecture, a civic leader who founded organizations to assist the impoverished women and children in Baltimore City, and an internationally renowned diplomat who helped to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I.

A visit to Hampton NHS gives visitors the opportunity to imagine indentured servants casting molten iron into Revolutionary War munitions, cheer on jockeys racing horses across the finish line to victory, understand the struggle of a freedom seeker’s dangerous journey to Baltimore City, listen in on Ridgely family members gathering in the music room for an informal performance, or to walk the steps of Governor Ridgely’s guests into his extravagant dining room. Learn more about how the lives of these individuals intertwined, and how their goals and hardships played out against the backdrop of America’s development as a nation.

  • 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.

  • The Ridgely Family of Hampton
    The Ridgely Family

    The Ridgely Family owned and managed the Hampton Estate for almost 200 years. Explore their impact on history!

  • Indentured Servants at Hampton
    Indentured Servants

    Indentured servants made up a significant portion of the Hampton labor force at one time. Read about their stories on the plantation.

  • Woman, named Ida Cummings; Her left hand on her chin & her right hand on her hip
    Descendants of the Enslaved

    Learn about the amazing things the descendants of the enslaved would go on to do!

Last updated: April 12, 2024

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535 Hampton Lane
Towson, MD 21286


410-962-4290 (option 2)

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