Study that follows the lives of the Enslaved

woman standing outside farm buildings next to tree
c. 1897 image of a tenant farmer woman outside the Quarters of the Enslaved.



Ethnographic Overview and Assessment Report
Hampton National Historic Site
Towson, MD (2020)

For more than 70 years that Hampton has been a National Historic Site, the lives, families, and labors of the people who were enslaved there had not been thoroughly researched. Finally, in 2017, the National Park Service funded a multi-year “Ethnographic Overview and Assessment,” a study which focused on the personal stories of enslaved individuals emancipated from Hampton. This work discovered their livelihoods in freedom and identified their family members and generations of descendants, including hundreds of people living today in communities across multiple states.

This project originally focused on tracing the legacy of the enslaved people who were either immediately or gradually manumitted, or set free, by the terms of the 1829 will of Charles Carnan Ridgely. The 15th governor of the state of Maryland, Ridgley was the proprietor of the 25,000-acre Hampton Plantation where hundreds of people were enslaved. The project’s principal investigator sought approval to include a broader discussion of chattel slavery and forced labor at Hampton. The expanded narrative includes information about people enslaved by Governor Ridgely’s son John who actively sought their freedom and or were freed by Maryland’s general emancipation in 1864. Additional studies examined the key neighborhoods providing refuge and new beginnings in the Baltimore area and beyond.

This study is a collection of eight essays resulting from the multi-year Ethnographic Overview and Assessment that was researched and written by the multidisciplinary team headed by anthropologist and author Dr. Cheryl LaRoche of the University of Maryland.

Full Pdf: Ethnographic Overview and Assessment Report

Report broken into Chapters/Essays:

Tracing Lives in Slavery: Reclaiming Families in Freedom” by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche

From Dry Documents to Full Lives: Discoveries from Historic Archival Materials and Documentary Sources” by Gregory R. Weidman

The Power of the Apostrophe: Analyzing possessive prefix names to determine family relationships and kin groupings at Hampton Plantation” by Camee Wingfield-Maddox

Out of the Shadows of History: The Batty and Spencer Families” by John Whitfield

Written on the Land: Locating Freedom” by Nora Holzinger

Bright Dreams: Descendants of Manumitted and Emancipated People of Hampton” by Patsy M. Fletcher

Living in the Post-Plantation: Hampton Historical Mansion in the Context of Baltimore County Development” by Samuel G. Collins

Beyond Hampton’s Reach: Seton Hill Historic District, MD to Old West Baltimore Historic District, MD to Lincoln University, PA” by Philip J. Merrill

The report also emphasizes the intricacies and hurdles of the research process, which relied mainly on genealogical, ethnographic, and cartographic methods. Principal Investigator Dr. LaRoche and the EOA team built on the primary source records and data from those records compiled by historian Dr. R. Kent Lancaster in the 1990s and contextualized by the Hampton NHS Historic Resource Study, On the Border of Freedom and Slavery: The Hampton Plantation, the Northampton Ironworks, and the Transformation of Labor (2014) by Robert Chase and Elizabeth Comer. Through an expansion of previous research protocols, the team explored a variety of documentary resources, family sources, oral histories, and research methods to uncover crucial information. The knowledge gained from this study is being incorporated into enhanced interpretation, programming, and exhibits for the public at Hampton National Historic Site.


Learn More

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • A drawing of people at nighttime on a dirt road
    Freedom Seekers

    Learn all about people that would seek their freedom from Hampton.

Last updated: June 10, 2024

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