By Sophie Foster
Chestertown, Md.’s Sumner Hall opened its new exhibition, titled “African American Veterans of Kent County,” on Friday, Nov. 11.
Sumner Hall, which serves to speak “of important African American experiences, from the time of the [United States] Civil War to the present day,” became an independent organization in July of 2015 when it was taken over by a new Board of Directors, according to its website, sumnerhall.org.
Currently, the Hall functions with the support of its Board of Directors, volunteers, and committee members.
According to its website, “the Board consciously determined to create a lively, locally relevant museum — in the spirit of [its] founders — to raise the voices of African Americans in community conversations and celebrations.”
Boasting principles of inclusivity, respect, collaboration, transparency, and accountability, Sumner Hall highlights the weight of community, particularly as it pertains to “racial injustice, police-youth relations, and food insecurity.”
The Hall’s new exhibit opening was preceded by 5 p.m. talk and discussion before the main event began at 6 p.m.
The talk centered on the contents of, motivation for, and context behind the development of the new showcase.
Since the Hall’s reopening in 2015, its volunteers, Board, and committee members have been working to accumulate detailed information regarding the Black veterans of Kent County, Md. that served at any point between the Revolutionary War and the modern day. The exhibit outlines their stories and experiences both in the military and in Kent County itself.
According to the website, “research undertaken for the Sumner Hall Veterans Project thus far reveals that almost 1,700 Kent County African Americans have served in the military since the [eighteenth] century.”
Sumner Hall also developed a booklet that explores the details and history of Kent County’s Black veterans more extensively, titled “African American Veterans from Kent County” by Bill Leary.
Chestertown’s Navy veteran Gregory Sparks, who served from 1975 to 1979, was honored in the booklet in addition to Big Woods veterans Raymond Ringgold and Corporal John Dudley Shorter, who served in the Air Force from 1949 to 1950 and the Army from 1953 to 1955, respectively; Worton’s Sergeant Samuel G. Tiller, Jr. who served in the Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars; and Georgetown’s Linwood Graham Clarkson, Jr. and Sergeant Vincent Blake, who served in the Air Force in the Vietnam War and between 1974 and 1980, respectively.
“Picture galleries on the covers and in the middle of this booklet highlight the careers of 28 African American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served since World War I,” the booklet says.
Known Black veterans of Kent County can be suggested to be added to the comprehensive but presumably incomplete list maintained by Sumner Hall at the form found at sumnerhall.org/programs/veterans-project.
Sumner Hall and the exhibit can be visited on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or contact the Hall for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (443) 282-0023. Sumner Hall is located at 206 South Queen Street.
Photo by Mia Snyder
Photo Caption: The opening of Sumner Hall’s “African American Veterans of Kent County” exhibit featured a wall of honor, which listed the known Black veterans of Kent County, Md.