EASTON, Md. — It took a Black History Month tweet from Maryland's Lieutenant Governor to draw our attention to an obscure community in Easton, Md. with a long, important history.
The neighborhood known as "The Hill" was established in the 1790's by freed African Americans and is the oldest continuously occupied African American neighborhood in America, according to Morgan State University Professor Dale Green.
Some current residents are descended directly from the founders.
The Hill is home to Maryland's oldest continuously used African American church, Bethel AME on Hanson Street.
The community was founded by freed African Americans who had either been emancipated by Quakers for religious reasons or had bought their own freedom long before Lincoln and the Civil War, Green said.
The community persevered through slavery, the Civil War, reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights eras by relying on faith anchored in the neighborhood's two significant churches.
Frederick Douglass, who escaped from bondage on a plantation 12 miles from Easton returned for the fist time to the Eastern Shore after the Civil war by visiting The Hill's churches in the 1870's.
Archaeologists have uncovered tens of thousands of artifacts including an exceptionally rare 1794 Liberty Cap coin. The image on the coin is inspired by Roman times and commemorates the freedom of slaves.
Only 14 other coins are known to exists. The coin's value exceeds $15,000, according to Green.
The Hill is now the focus of preservation and redevelopment efforts focused on rehabbing historic homes for low to moderate income buyers.
The neighborhood is popular for walking history tours.