African-American history is sometimes hard to come across because so little is known and written about it. But, a recently uncovered cemetery in Maryland, possibly left by slaves, is providing a sense of history for their descendants.
Deep in the forest, sisters Shelly Evans and Wanda Watts walk in the footsteps of their ancestors. The two women share a frustration common to many African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in America.
Watts says, “We have no history. We begin and we end here.”
But, thanks to a recent and accidental discovery, the sisters may have uncovered their family’s hidden family on this piece of land.
Evans says, “My three times great grandmother was born here”.
Evans and Watts are the descendants of slaves who lived, worked, and may have died here on what was the Belvoir Plantation.
Dr. Julie Schablitsky is the chief archaeologist with the Maryland Department of Transportation. She tells us, “When we first came here to Belvoir, we were first looking for the Rochambeau Encampment, which was during the American Revolution”.
But, instead, they found slave quarters, built in the 1780’s and lived in until emancipation in 1864.
The land was a tobacco plantation, once owned by relatives of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.
A former resident of the property tipped Dr. Schablitsky’s team off to what they thought could be a slave cemetery tucked along a ravine, deep in the woods.
They found nearly half a dozen pieces of broken marble and stones resembling grave markers thrown around the location. But, to be sure, Dr. Schablitsky brought in cadaver dogs. Once they picked up a human scent, they confirmed it was a cemetery.
Watts says, “For me, it was the knowledge of them being buried someplace rather than being tossed away.”
But, even so, they may never know for certain if their family is actually buried there or at Belvoir.