TRACING LIVES IN SLAVERY:
RECLAIMING FAMILIES IN FREEDOM
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC SOLUTION TO A HISTORICAL PROBLEM
Ethnographic Overview and Assessment Report
Hampton National Historic Site
Towson, MD (2020)
This report is a collection of eight essays resulting from a multi-year Ethnographic Overview and Assessment, a core baseline document for NPS sites. Written by the multidisciplinary Ethnographic Study Team headed by Dr. Cheryl LaRoche of the University of Maryland, the report traces the lives of the people who obtained their freedom from enslavement at Hampton Plantation and reflects the research strategies used. Until now, the lives, families, and labors of these individuals remained under-researched. The study not only focused on the people emancipated from Hampton, but also identified hundreds of their family members and descendants, following them down through the generations to people living today in communities across multiple states. The study uncovered details of the personal lives of these individuals, their intertwining family connections, and the neighborhoods in which they lived post-Emancipation.
The project originally focused on tracing the legacy of the enslaved people who were either immediately or gradually manumitted by the terms of the 1829 will of Charles Carnan Ridgely, the 15th governor of the state of Maryland and owner of many hundreds of enslaved workers along with the 25,000-acre Hampton Plantation. The research soon expanded to include a broader discussion of slavery and forced labor at Hampton. The expanded narrative includes information on freedom seekers who escaped from slavery and individuals freed by Maryland’s general emancipation in 1864. Additional studies examined the key neighborhoods providing refuge and a new beginning in Baltimore City and County and beyond.
The report also emphasizes the intricacies and hurtles 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 along with data from those records compiled by Dr. R. Kent Lancaster in the 1990s and contextualized by the Hampton Historic Resource Study (2014) of Robert Chase and Elizabeth Comer. Through an expansion of previous research protocols, the team explored a variety of materials, sources, and research methods to uncover and piece together information. The information gained from this study is being incorporated into enhanced interpretation, programming, and exhibits for the public at Hampton National Historic Site.