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Maryland Province Archives

This is a guide to using the Maryland Province Archives (MPA), held at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections.

Researching African American Life in the MPA

African American LifeRidge - St. Peter Claver "Colored School" - July 1933 (Fr. McKenna), John Brosnan, S.J., Photographic Collection

There are a range of materials for those interested in the lives and experiences of free African Americans in the broader Maryland region and the District of Columbia, both before and after emancipation.  The Jesuits of the Maryland Province continued to rely on the labor of African Americans after the 1838 sale.  Many communities and churches in the vicinity of the houses were predominantly - and, due to church segregation, often exclusively - African American, and these communities were also heavily Catholic. 

After 1850, as the Province restructured its missions away from plantations, the communities in southern Maryland remained heavily African American.  The records of these restructured houses provide insight into free African American life and labor, Black Catholic communities, and race relations between white Jesuits and Black parishioners.  House records are also a source for genealogical research into black Catholic communities in the mid-Atlantic region. 

As they search the finding aid, researchers should note the following transformations of plantation houses, as well as the establishment of new houses, in the southern Maryland region:

  • Reorganized houses:
    • Leonardtown in 1868 (formerly Newtown)
    • Bowie in 1904 (formerly White Marsh)
    • Ridge in 1905 (formerly St. Inigoes); St. Peter Claver Church, a separate African American parish, also established here
  • New houses:
    • Chaptico, St. Mary's County (1914)
    • La Plata, Charles County (1926)
    • Great Mills, St. Mary's County (1927)

Researchers may also wish to consult the diaries of Jesuit novitiates stationed in Frederick, Maryland.  These novitiates served asylums, schools, and hospitals, and they commented frequently on the diverse groups of people they interacted with through these institutions, including African Americans, and both Black and white women and children.

Image: Ridge - St. Peter Claver "Colored School" - July 1933 (Fr. McKenna), John Brosnan, S.J., Photographic Collection

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