High­light­ing African-Amer­i­can her­itage

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com

CAM­BRIDGE — The au­tumn sun trick­led through the leaves in Cam­bridge Wed­nes­day, Oct. 4, with com­mu­nity tak­ing to the streets for third an­nual Walk Mary­land Day.

The event held spe­cial mean­ing for Cam­bridge as this year’s walk high­lighted The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour: A Story of Com­mu­nity, Faith, Hope and Change. Led by Dion Banks and Kisha Pet­ti­co­las from the East­ern Shore Net­work for Change, walk­ers strolled from Long Wharf Park, up High Street and to Pine Street to shed light on the African-Amer­i­can her­itage in Cam­bridge.

“The tour high­lights the African-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence, which has been ig­nored in our his­tor y,” Banks

said. “It is an im­por­tant part of our cul­ture. We’ve been here for­ever so we need to tell our own story. It is all about shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. This is the story of us.”

The Dorch­ester County Health Depart­ment funded The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour project, and helped cre­ate a map and brochure de­pict­ing his­tor­i­cal lo­ca­tions along the walk, which fea­tures 14 stops on High, Pine, Cedar, Race and Po­plar streets.

“Walk­ing makes you slow down and ap­pre­ci­ate all the things around you while get­ting good ex­er­cise,” Pet­ti­co­las said. “There was a mark­ing about Franklin Roo­sevelt down near Long Wharf Park that I had never seen be­fore. Those are the things you see when you get a chance to take a walk and look around.

“There is a lot of beauty and his­tory here,” she said. “This walk is a great op­por­tu­nity to en­joy it.”

The first part of the walk in­cluded stops at the Bayly House on High Street, which has a slave home at the rear des­ig­nated by the Na­tional Preser va­tion Schol­ars. The Dorch­ester County Court­house is the site of first es­cape en­gi­neered by Har­riet Tub­man. Her niece Kes­siah Bow­ley and her two chil­dren es­caped from the slave auc­tion block in 1850, meet­ing up with Tub­man in Bal­ti­more and later reach­ing free­dom in Philadel­phia.

The fi­nal stop on High Street was Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church, home church for Cam­bridge Mayor Vic­to­ria Jack­son-Stan­ley who also at­tended Wed­nes­day’s walk. Waugh Church is the site of the old­est Black Methodist con­gre­ga­tion in Cam­bridge. It was founded by free African Amer­i­cans in 1826.

From there, the tour group walked down Pine Street, which was once known as Black Wall Street.

“Eco­nomics and so­cial life here were boom­ing,” Banks said. “Pine Street was of­ten called Black Wall Street. Cam­bridge was very unique to ev­ery other place in the coun­try at that time be­cause any­thing you could get on Race Street, you could get here on Pine Street.”

Banks said the civil rights move­ment in Cam­bridge dur­ing the 1960s was much dif­fer­ent from the rest of the coun­try be­cause African-Amer­i­cans could vote and had a strong eco­nomic base on Pine Street.

“Our move­ment was dif­fer­ent than the na­tional move­ment,” he said. “Ev­ery­one else was talk­ing about de­seg­re­ga­tion and pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions, but we were talk­ing about hous­ing, health ben­e­fits and ed­u­ca­tion.”

Pet­ti­co­las said the Cam­bridge nar­ra­tive got twisted when a fire dev­as­tated the city’s African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity Pine Street in July 1967.

The fire be­gan at Pine Street Ele­men­tary, burn­ing for sev­eral hours be­fore the fire turned into an un­con­trol­lable in­ferno, lead­ing to the de­struc­tion of 17 build­ings in a two-block area of Pine Street, the cen­ter of African-Amer­i­can com­merce, cul­ture and com­mu­nity.

Dur­ing a four-day “Re­flec­tions on Pine: Cam­bridge com­mem­o­rates civil rights, com­mu­nity and change” event in July hosted by the East­ern Shore Net­work for Change, “Civil War on Race Street” au­thor Dr. Peter Levy showed the fire was not caused by a riot, but due to the fire depart­ment not com­ing to put the fire out.

“Our nar­ra­tive got sucked into the na­tional nar­ra­tive,” Pet­ti­co­las said “That is one of the rea­sons why the story got so twisted when H. Rap Brown came to Cam­bridge.”

Pet­ti­co­las said ac­cord­ing to Cam­bridge civil rights leader Glo­ria Richard­son, the school fire be­gan be­cause some­one was tak­ing an op­por­tu­nity to get rid of the school be­cause it was on prime prop­erty. She said the per­son did not know the fire was go­ing to spread. She said the per­son who started the fire later com­mit­ted sui­cide.

Af­ter the fire, many Pine Street busi­nesses were un­able to re­build be­cause banks would not give fund­ing to the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity.

The Dorch­ester Elks Lodge 223 also was lost dur­ing the fire, but even­tu­ally was re­built af­ter go­ing to five dif­fer­ent banks to get fund­ing.

“Pine Street was the place to come,” Pet­ti­co­las said. “We had Ella Fitzger­ald, James Brown, so many other top African-Amer­i­can acts from the 1920s and on per­form on Pine Street. That his­tory still lives here. We want to show­case that his­tory, and be proud of our story.

“We want to thank the health depart­ment who funded this project for us,” she said. “They reached out to use for Mary­land Walk Day, and asked if they could high­light our walk as the walk to do. We ap­pre­ci­ate them want­ing to help tell our story, and help­ing us pro­duce this walk.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the East­ern Shore Net­work for Change, visit www.es­nc­cam­bridgemd.com.

For more in­for­ma­tion about The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour, visit www.vis­it­dorch­ester.org/wp-con­tent/up­loads/PineStWalk­ingTour. pdf.


The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour makes a stop at Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church on High Street in Cam­bridge Wed­nes­day, Oct. 4.


East­ern Shore Net­work for Change membe Dion Banks, right, leads the Pine Street Walk­ing Tour dur­ing a stop on High Street in Cam­bridge.

East­ern Shore Net­work for Change founders Dion Banks, left, and Kisha Pet­ti­co­las lead the Pine Street Walk­ing Tour by Sim­mons Cen­ter Mar­ket on Race Street in Cam­bridge. The fam­ily-owned busi­ness was one of the few busi­nesses on the pre­dom­i­nantly white Race Street to serve the AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­nity dur­ing the time of seg­re­ga­tion.

East­ern Shore Net­work for Change founders Dion Banks, left, and Kisha Pet­ti­co­las lead the Pine Street Walk­ing Tour by Christ Epis­co­pal Church in Cam­bridge. Banks said the church is of the most beau­ti­ful churches he has ever seen.

The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour makes a stop at Bethel A.M.E. Church on Pine Street in Cam­bridge Wed­nes­day, Oct. 4.

The Pine Street Walk­ing Tour goes by Christ Epis­co­pal Church in Cam­bridge. Dion Banks said the church is of the most beau­ti­ful churches he has ever seen.

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