Located at: Freedom Park
1744 S. Coral Place Lexington Park, MD 20653
Park hours are every day, sunrise to sunset.
Pictured left to right: Richard Holly, Phillip Scriber, Elmer Brown, Joe Bryant, Ben Simmons, and Spencer Scriber
On July 29, 2000 a dream became a reality. The newly erected St. Mary’s County African American Monument was dedicated. The monument located in Lexington Park, Maryland on the grounds of Freedom Park serves as an external reminder to the citizens of the county of the contributions of African Americans to the growth and development of St. Mary’s County. Contributions of great significance being made in all walks of life that have been sparsely documented or are missing entirely from historical chronicles and books that tell the story of St. Mary’s County.
If you were to tour the monument you would find a pyramid of natural stone that it is surrounded by six pedestals with bronze plaques. The symbolism of the monument evolved from a community of people who persevered to make it a reality.
The Pyramid -- The pyramid represents one of the oldest architectural structures built of stone and mortar. The four- sided base of this edifice symbolizes creativity, survival, strength and multicultural participation in the building of community in St. Mary’s County. This foundation reminds us that we stand on the backs and shoulders of the many who came before us.
The Natural Stone -- The rough hewn simplicity of native natural stone from the county symbolizes the efforts of the many African Americans who have made contributions to St. Mary’s County. The stones in all sizes and shapes represent the diverse accomplishments of all people in the African American community … rich and poor, known and unknown.
The Eternal Flame -- The finial of the monument is an eternal flame which symbolizes the constant eternal presence of our fore-parents and our eternal gratefulness to them as we pass the torch to future generations.
Elmer Brown's Dream Realized - The African American Monument in Southern Maryland
The dream came to life when one person shared a vision with another. Together they thought it was important enough to pursue making the vision a reality. The dream? To give recognition and respect to African-American life and contributions to the county. For those who came before us and those are currently part of our community.
The community and the county was founded, developed and continues to grow though the effort of many people: civil rights advocates, religious leaders, educators, and community organizers; domestic workers, trade persons, business people, and farmers.
Interested members first met on June 30, 1994 to form a group. This meeting was the outcome of a vision of Elmer Brown.
Meeting regularly in the fall of 1994, and developing a strategy which could be implemented within a three-year period, the group named itself the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC). On October 30, 1994, UCAC became a 501C3 non-profit organization.
On November 29, 1994, the committee presented a proposal to the St. Mary's Board of County Commissioners: to erect a monument dedicated to African Americans. The commissioners agreed to placing the monument in Freedom Park** in Lexington Park, Maryland.
It took several meetings before UCAC members agreed as to what kind of materials might be used and what shape the monument should be. It was decided that the monument would be in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid, because Egypt is an African country, the Egyptians built pyramids, and the pyramid represents strength and endurance.
After deciding the shape of the monument, one question still remained. What should they build it out of?
Inspired by a hymn, Rough Side of the Mountain, it was decided that rough stone would make up the monument. Says Mr. Brown, "The stones and the shape of the monument represent the difficult struggle of blacks climbing the rough side of mountain to get to the other side."
The stones for the monument had to be 4" or 5" in diameter. Members of the committee went to many sand pits and gathered stones in 5-gallon buckets. They'd carry them to the site in Freedom Park where the monument was to be built.
Spencer Scriber was assigned as the construction foreman, but it with much help that the monument was born. This was accomplished by many people: Elmer J. Brown, Richard Holly, Calvin Green, Tony Porter, Robert John Lewis, Spencer Scriber, Joseph Stover, Philip Scriber, Melvin Endy, and many others.
At the top of the monument is an eternal flame. A continuous beacon commemorating the accomplishments of African Americans in St. Mary's County: past, present and future. The idea was to present a beacon that Afro-Americans have reached the top of the mountain.
** Freedom Park is near the main gate to Patuxent Naval Air Station at the intersection of Route 235 and Tulagi Place. Limited parking is available. Additional parking is available directly across Route 235.
The monument is surrounded by six pedestals with bronze plaques inviting you into the monument to read and reflect on the monumental contributions of African Americans to the county.
"Building History One Brick at a Time," The Enterprise, 21 April 2004, sec. A, p. 2. It is a tall structure in the middle of bright green grass at the corner of Tulagi Place and Route 235. Physically, it is nothing but stone and mortar surrounded by paths of bricks. But to hundreds of people in St. Mary's, it is a symbol of the contribution that African-Americans have made to the progress of the region.
And now just about anyone can own a little piece of it.
The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions is selling bricks that will be inscribed and placed into one of the paths that surround the monument. The bricks will be $50 each for up to 18 characters, and then 50 cents for each additional character. The bricks will be a part of a Juneteenth celebration and should be ordered by April 30.
Elmer Brown is on the monument committee and said that he hopes that by buying bricks, people will feel a connection with the meaning of the monument.
"It gives Afro-Americans an opportunity to have something they can have ownership of," Brown said. "Somewhere or something that they could point to to say 'this represents me,' and it's all for the benefit of the county in general."
Brown said he has often driven by the monument and seen people sitting and reading books or looking at the plaques. "
Sometimes they just go to it and touch it," he said. "They can feel the importance of it.
"The bricks are an opportunity for those persons to say thank you to ... the people who paved the way for them."
And for those who are not African American, Brown said they can also appreciate the importance of the monument.
"It gives them a feeling of partnership. They also feel a contribution to something important -- freedom."
These bricks, placed on the walkway surrounding and leading to the monument, serve as a permanent acknowledgement of the importance of African-American contributions to St. Mary's County.
During the Civil War 180,000 African Americans comprising 170 regiments served in the Union Army and 29,511 served in the Union Navy. Army regiments composed of black soldiers were known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Many of the men who served as USCT were slaves prior to volunteering for the Union Army. In St. Mary's County during the 1800s there were more than 6,500 slaves and over 700 were recruited as USCT. The monument will honor the United States Colored Troops and all Union soldiers and sailors from St. Mary’s County who fought during the Civil War.
It pays special tribute to USCT soldiers, Pvt. William H. Barnes and Sgt. James H. Harris who earned the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of New Market Heights, Va., in September 1864. Joseph B. Hayden of St. Mary’s County, a white Civil War sailor in the United States Navy, earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery on board the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, during attacks on Fort Fisher, 13 to 15 January 1865.
March 12, 2012 - Ground-breaking for the United States Colored Troops Memorial Monument at John G Lancaster Park in Lexington Park, Maryland.
St. Mary's County produced two Union Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor winners, both awarded for their bravery in the battle of New Market Heights, Chaffin's Farm, near Fort Harrison, VA on September 29, 1864. They were two of fourteen Medal of Honor recipients awarded for their gallantry in that battle, and two of twenty-four U. S. Colored Troops Civil War soldiers to receive this highest honor. ~ Idolia Shubrooks
Thirty years ago I couldn't sit in the front of the church. And thirty years later I'm a minister of that same church. I'm giving out sacraments to people in that same church. Analyze that, put it up on a wall and look at it. And say, "How foolish it is." ~ James Alexander Forrest
People made great sacrifices for this country to be where it is today. It's a universal sacrifice on both sides of the fence. Unfortunately, our history has reflected more of one side than another. People need to understand the contributions that have been made to make this country what it is. ~ Alonzo Gaskin
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