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CROWNSVILLE, Md. (Nexstar) – African-American History is sometimes hard to come across, because so little is known and written about it. But archeologists can unearth unspoiled records of what happened hundreds of years ago. The Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration recently uncovered a long forgotten slave cemetery in Crownsville, Maryland.

Unmarked field-stones left by slaves on the former Belvoir Plantation indicate an enslaved community’s burial grounds, tucked deep in the woods of the former tobacco plantation. Archeologists have discovered slave quarters, a slave cemetery, and descendants of slaves that once worked and lived on the land.

Sisters Shelly Evans and Wanda Watts share a frustration common to many African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in America. 

“We have no history. We begin and we end here,” said Watts.

But thanks to this recent, accidental discovery, the sisters may have uncovered their hidden family.

Evans and Watts are descendants of slaves who lived, worked and may have died on the land that was the Belvoir Plantation.

Dr. Julie Schablitsky, the Chief Archaeologist with the Maryland Department of Transportation, explained, “When we first came here to Belvoir we were first looking for the Rochambeau encampment which was during the American Revolution.” Instead, they found slave quarters built in the 1780s and lived in until Emancipation in 1864.

The land was a tobacco plantation once owned by relatives of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.

A former resident of the property tipped Dr. Schablitsky’s team off to what they thought could be a slave cemetery tucked along a ravine, deep in the woods. They found nearly half a dozen pieces of broken marble and stones resembling grave markers thrown around the location.

Dr. Schablitsky brought in cadaver dogs. Once they picked up a human scent they confirmed it was a cemetery.

Dr. Schablitsky says there are no immediate plans for the uncovered slave cemetery. The slave quarters have been fully excavated and the Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration plans to add interpretive panels to the site.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Now calm and serene, the Savannah River was once a bustling, active route for importing and exporting goods in the River Region. It’s proud past also includes a perilous period that changed lives and later influenced a segment of art culture.

“The slave trade had been abolished in 1807 and really took effect in 1808. But, this was 50 years later in December 1858,” explained Edgefield County Historian Tonya Guy.

About 400 slaves were brought to Georgia on a schooner called “The Wanderer.” Small boats were hired to take slaves up the Savannah River. 200 were taken through the dark, murky water of Horseshoe Creek and into Edgefield County, South Carolina.

“There are newspaper accounts talking about how intelligent they were, how quickly they learned when they came here and started working on different plantations. They were skilled laborers,” said Guy.

Although ripped from their country with an uncertain future, the slaves would not let go of a piece of their past. While working for local pottery manufacturers, they created “face jugs.”

“They’re very rudimentary. They’re very crude. They’re very small,” said Guy. “It’s believed that they practiced the voodoo religion. So, they believed that they could talk to ancestors through the face vessels.”

While no one can put a price on the service of slaves, collectors are paying high dollar to get a piece of their work. They’ve sold for up to $25,000 at auctions.

Although they are long gone, face jugs of slaves from The Wanderer serve as a glaring reminder of perseverance that will never be forgotten.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) – Law enforcement agents are tasked with protecting communities, but throughout history Americans have seen mistrust between certain groups and police officers.

The newly opened National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington D.C. hopes to strengthen relations by highlighting the history of law enforcement and having open dialogues about its future. 

The museum recognizes the significant role officers including Lucius Amerson played in improving public safety and race relations. Amerson was the first African-American sheriff elected in the deep south since Reconstruction. Amerson’s badge, sunglasses and name plate are on display at the museum to honor the law enforcement and civil rights pioneer.


Rebecca Looney is the Director of Exhibits and Programs at the National Law Enforcement museum. She said Amerson was an Army veteran who became sheriff of Macon County, Alabama in the late 1960’s following the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Looney said many saw his election as a sign of progress for black Americans fighting for equality and against police brutality. “It’s a big step forward. We say law enforcement needs to reflect our communities,” said Looney.

The museum uses audio and video exhibits to document how Sheriff Amerson worked in his community to improve relations between deputies and the majority black population they served. One exhibit plays an old video clip of Amerson vowing to enforce color-blind police tactics. 

Looney said Amerson’s story represents a defining moment in law enforcement history. Present day police departments nationwide acknowledge that recruiting and maintaining a diverse force is still a challenge. “If law enforcement isn’t of the community then it’s not really filling the role that we as a democracy have set it to fulfill,” she said. 

Recent headlines have focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and the lack of trust between police and the public. Craig Floyd CEO of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund said he hopes the museum can play a part in easing tensions. “We are going to have thoughtful important conversations between the public and law enforcement right here in the National Law Enforcement Museum,” said Floyd.

The $100 million museum honors those who protect and serve communities. The facility features thousands of artifacts including firearms, body armor and equipment used for public safety. “For most people it will be a real eye-opener” said Floyd.

The exhibits highlight community policing in Charleston, South Carolina and other places.

Through programs and open dialogues Floyd said organizers hope to restore and increase trust. 
“We realize there is great hope for the future. Law enforcement and the communities they work in are doing incredible things to try to strengthen that bond between police and the public” said Floyd. 

Staff at the museum hope sharing the stories of Sheriff Lucius Amerson, as well as the stories of men and women of all races who have given their lives in the line of duty, will help visitors better understand the vital role diversity plays in keeping our communities safe.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Let’s take a walk in history through the eyes of an Indianapolis reverend who was up-front with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While the Civil Rights Act had just been passed in the late 1960s, segregation and racism were still rampant. The Reverend Mel Jackson had just met King, but what happened next changed Jackson’s life.

It was Chicago, 1964. A young Jackson was training with American community organizer Saul Alinsky, widely regarded as the founder of organizing people for change.

One night, Jackson was at a small group meeting in Chicago with just seven people and a special invited guest–that guest was King.

The first words Jackson said to King were memorable.

“I told him I thought he was a wimp,” Jackson, now 88 years old, said. “I thought he should be ashamed of himself, leading people to get beat upside the head and all that sort of thing. King was such a patient man, he wasn’t ruffled.”

Jackson, 35 years old at the time, had recently gotten out of the military.

“When I got out, I was an angry man,” Jackson said. “I went into the service in a tightly-regulated, segregated society and came out with that same condition.”

Soon after, Jackson left his home in Dayton, Ohio, and traveled to the Midwest, organizing his own civil rights demonstrations at factories and business offices.

“Black people were not in charge of anything,” Jackson said. “We were the lowest level with the least pay and were simply disrespected.”

Jackson said King told him about something different, fundamentally changing how the nation’s system operates.

“It helped me to understand, to read more, to think more, to plan with more people,” Jackson said earnestly. “To really get a grip on the whole idea of institutional change.”

Fast forward to 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Jackson marched with King, demanding racial equality. That’s when King told Jackson something that completely changed his philosophy.

“He said if a man doesn’t have anything to die for, he really is not fit to live. Boy, that gripped me,” Jackson said. “He said I’m willing to die for people I love. He said Christ died for all of us. The guy had me with tears in my eye.”

That wasn’t the only thing King told Jackson that stuck with him.

“‘I know that I’m going to die. I don’t know when,’ he said. But if dying is to help people to live, he said yesterday, tomorrow won’t be too soon,” Jackson said earnestly.

That tragedy came true April 4, 1968, the day King was assassinated at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. Jackson’s buddy broke the news to him in Chicago.

“He said Martin Luther King is dead,” Jackson said. “All hell broke loose that night on the west side of Chicago.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson called King “the apostle of nonviolence.”

“I’m sure that the meeting with King, and his attitude toward humanity with disregard to what a person looks like, or what their conditions are, that love really has no barriers,” Jackson said.

Fifty years later, Jackson says that King’s words still resonate hope.

Through his time with King, Jackson said he learned that love is about being willing to give all you are for the betterment of your fellow man.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The African American experience is as old and rich as America itself. But much of this history is only known to a few, or even overlooked entirely. Many of the pitched battles for equality are woven into the fabric of our small cities and towns but are not known to the rest of the country.

Throughout the month of February WISH-TV is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting some of this Hidden History.  We will tell some of these stories during our newscasts leading up to a 30 minute special on February 23rd at 6:30pm we’re calling “Indiana’s Hidden History.”  You will hear from those who risked it all, their struggles and their triumphs as they fought for justice.  This program is dedicated to the spirit of the Black community and it’s Hidden History.

You can also look for vignettes all month that uncover heroes of the movement and stories that made it all possible.  Some of the stories you will see include: