Prince George’s County, MD is Loaded with Black History


A wealth of historic places in Prince George’s County, Maryland, convey how integral African Americas are to the history of this area. African Americans first arrived in Maryland on the Ark and the Dove in 1634. By 1720, one quarter of Maryland planters owned slaves; by 1760, this percentage rose to half. By 1850, Maryland had more free blacks than any other state; by 1860, free and enslaved African Americans constituted one quarter of the state’s population. From 1790 to around 1850, Prince George’s County was home to approximately 11,000 enslaved African Americans, greater than the county’s white population and more slaves than any other Maryland county. This labor force fueled the county’s agricultural prosperity. As Maryland did not secede from the Union at the time of the Civil War, due in part to the state’s predominately mercantile economy, Maryland’s black population was denied many of the protections and political benefits of Reconstruction.

Abraham Hall
Courtesy of Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Program, photo by Jack Boucher

Immediately bordering Washington, DC, Prince George’s County was also effected by the growth of the black population in the nation’s capitol after the Civil War. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans moved to Washington for the cultural and economic opportunities the city offered, found in few other cities. Late 19th century transportation improvements, specifically street car lines, enabled Washington’s black workforce to move to Prince George’s County. Early 20th century communities such as North Brentwood, Fairmount Heights and Glenarden developed along transportation arteries and attracted even more African Americans to the county. At the turn of the 21st century, Prince George’s County had become the wealthiest majority African American county in the United States, with more black-owned businesses than any other jurisdiction in the state.

Thomas Calloway House
Courtesy of Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Program

The African American Historic Resources of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Multiple Property Submission provides a framework for understanding the historic settlements, buildings and sites of African Americans in the county’s long history. Many were built by African Americans, including Freedman’s schools, churches, and houses. In 1908, Thomas Junius Calloway, a Washington attorney and businessman, platted Lincoln as a semi-rural retreat for African Americans living in Washington, DC, Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland. Calloway credited African American architect Isaiah Hatton with establishing high architectural standards for the community. Ridgley Methodist Episcopal Church in Landover was built in 1921 and was the spiritual and social center of the formerly rural African American farming community of Ridgley. It is an outstanding example of a rural African American church, and its cemetery holds the potential to yield information about traditional religious beliefs and practices.

St. Mary’s Beneficial Society Hall
Courtesy of Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Program

Abraham Hall was constructed in 1889 in Rossville for the Benevolent Sons and Daughters of Abraham, a society established for the social welfare of its African Americans. The multi-purpose building served as a meeting hall, house of worship, school and social hall for African Americans living in a segregated society. Similarly, in Upper Marlboro, black Roman Catholics founded St. Mary’s Beneficial Society in 1880 to provide for the social welfare of their community. They constructed a Society Hall in 1892 located to serve as a meeting place, social and political center and house of worship. These, and other properties, were listed in the National Register in 2005 as part of the African American Historic Resources of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Multiple Property Submission.