(NEWSLOOK) -- After months of digging for artifacts in a small Maryland town, researchers believe they have uncovered the oldest free African American settlement in the United States.
Visitors tour the sleepy town of Easton, in Maryland, which may have just become an historic landmark in American history. It was during an archeological dig, that researchers unearthed evidence that this neighborhood, known as "The Hill," could have been the oldest community of free African Americans in the United States, settled at a time when most were enslaved for nearly another century.
Dale Glenwood Green, Professor of Architecture at Morgan State University, said, "We're able to tell completely, fully, the American story, not just a black story, because it is American history, of how this integrated society was sustained in every capacity."
Researchers cross-referenced early land records with coins, tools, and pottery dating back to the late 18th century. Proof, they say, that free blacks and whites lived together on this property around 1790. But locals, many of whom can trace their Easton roots back hundreds of years, aren't surprised by the discovery. Keiford Copper Jr. has found so many artifacts over the years, he has even started digging in his own back yard.
"I do historical work for houses and there you usually find a lot of stuff I've found a lot of old clay marbles, skeleton keys, stuff like that," said Copper.
This region- rich in history- was also home to abolitionist heroes like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. And so, with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaching, locals reflect on centuries of civil rights struggles.
Green stated, "As we commemorate in perpetuity, these different milestone in our history, like the 50th anniversary of such, we can always come back to a place like this. America's oldest that can speak to all of these different eras of our history."
Green cautions that tours and research will continue for years. There is still much more work to be done.