17 African American Civil War Soldiers

August 3, 2018

I’ve decided I love small museums the very best.

As I’ve been traveling through my 60s, I’ve discovered something that seems to come with the territory – that having too many choices is not a good thing. Walking into a large department store with seemingly a million and one wardrobe items from which to choose can reduce me to wandering, wilting, and wondering, “Why?” quicker than anything else. Visiting a large museum, although exciting and amazing, can do the same thing: it’s like a cacaphony of stuff and I just don’t know where to begin or how to sort it all out. (I do enjoy these visits, however; I just have to tackle them differently, dividing them up into smaller units and being satisfied with seeing only a portion of the whole.) Going to a small one, though, is more manageable. As Maria sang, “You just start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” and you can get the whole thing done decently, in order, and satisfactorily, brushing off one’s hands at the end, knowing that there has been a lovely thing accomplished. The experience can then be celebrated, enjoyed, and even savored; never forgotten, then shared with others.

Visiting the Harriet Tubman Museum, about an hour away from Chestertown, is one of these memorable visits, as is a visit to the Selma (AL) Interpretive Museum and the new Legacy Museum (a.k.a. the “Lynching Museum” in Montgomery, AL), which I just did a couple of weeks ago, but which are not just around the corner from here. However, another of these small museum treasures is right here in Chestertown, Sumner Hall, which is another African American history museum, a restored local G.A.R. Post built in 1908. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, it is also a treasure, and one of only 2 buildings like it in the entire world.

Sumner Hall, recently the site of a live broadcast of WYPR, the Baltimore NPR station, (just this past week!), is also currently the place where one can enjoy the beautiful exhibit of “17 Black Soldiers of the Civil War.” Opening tomorrow, it is a collection of colored pencil portraits taken from a pocket-sized album of locket-sized photographs (each the size of postage stamps!) dating back to the Civil War. The story behind the display and the stories behind each of the portraits are intriguing, exciting and enticing, drawing one in to imagine, to learn, to remember, and then, to be changed.

The Sumner Hall exhibit, made possible by the artist, Shayne Davidson, will only be here in Chestertown for this month of August 2018. So try to make plans today!

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Location, Location, Location.

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