In 2016, St. Mary’s College of Maryland broke ground on a new athletics stadium. Before construction could begin, the college was required to conduct an archeological dig at the site. Archeologists uncovered something that forced the college to reconsider the history of land it stands on– artifacts associated with enslaved people’s quarters. This week, St. Mary’s will be dedicating a new memorial to the enslaved people who lived on the college’s grounds.
After the artifacts were uncovered, Tuajuanda Jordan, president of St. Mary’s, organized focus groups of students, faculty, staff and community members to decide how to honor the memory of the enslaved people who lived in St. Mary’s City. These conversations led to the decision to erect a memorial on the grounds. Design firm Re:site created the memorial, which was installed in October.
The memorial is shaped like an enslaved people’s cabin and incorporates “erasure poetry” culled from advertisements and other historical documents. The monument is lit from the inside so that the poetry projects onto the surrounding land at night.
Jordan hopes that the memorial will stand as a counter narrative to the prevailing discourse on American slavery in Southern Maryland. Most history tells the story of slavery from the view of the enslavers. In nearby Scotland stands the Confederate Memorial Park. “In the US, you talk about history but you have a tendency to tell it from a narrow perspective and erase, so to speak, others that didn’t have any power as if they didn’t exist. I thought it was time that we should take a fresh approach. Then maybe it will give people pause to think about how we treat each other in this country, how we talk about our history and realize that we’ve lost major chapters in what we are about as people,” Jordan told The Guardian.
St. Mary’s will be dedicating the memorial on Saturday, November 21st.