In the 18th and 19th centuries, the southern counties of Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and Montgomery were home to a large population of people. Among them were 50,000 whites, 9,500 free blacks, and more than 48,000 slaves. The lives of these slaves remained largely unchanged during this period. In particular, Calvert County was home to 273 enslaved African-Americans who managed to gain their freedom by fleeing the British Army.
One such individual was Charles Stewart. Charles Stewart was owned by Levin Ballard's son, Ballard. On June 16th 1814, Stewart decided to escape to the British ships anchored in Lower Marlboro. He wanted to bring his wife Sarah and five daughters Betty, Eliza, Juliet, Jane and Rebecca with him.
All five daughters were owned by Elizabeth Ballard, Levin's mother. In the end, twelve of the people enslaved by Elizabeth Ballard obtained their freedom that night. Slavery in Maryland had a long history that spanned over two centuries from its beginning in 1642 when the first Africans were brought as slaves to Santa María until its end after the Civil War. Maryland had a larger free black population than any other state in 1860 due to slavery declining earlier than in neighboring Virginia.
The province's first settlements and population centers were mainly located around the rivers and waterways that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Tobacco was the main cash crop grown by planters in Maryland and it was labor-intensive both in cultivation and processing. When tobacco prices fell in the late 17th century, planters had difficulty managing their workers. Initially indentured servants from England provided much of the labor but as their economy improved fewer traveled to the colonies.
This led to Maryland colonists importing enslaved and hired Africans to meet labor demand. Michael Kent, president of Calvert's NAACP, can trace his family back to the late 18th century when they were working as slaves in Calvert County. The county is most famous for its role in the War of 1812 with the Barney Flotilla and battles of St. In 1664 under Charles Calvert's governorship, third Baron of Baltimore, it was ruled that all enslaved people should remain in slavery for life and that their children should also remain enslaved for life. The history of slavery in Calvert County is a reminder of how far we have come as a nation since then.
It is also a reminder of how much work still needs to be done to ensure that all people are treated equally and with respect.