What is the “North County African American Trail”?

September 22, 2022

Newly-added to the Chesapeake Crossroads Heritage Area, this region, known as “North County,” has a rich heritage. The physical places where this African American heritage once flourished, however, have largely been lost.  North County’s contemporary landscape of commercial corridors and dense residential development can mask — but does not hide — its connections to historic communities of color established in the mid-1800s before the Civil War and emancipation. Connecting the communities were influential churches, which served not only spiritual needs, but also social needs. The Black churches “were significant as social centers, cultural conduits, school sponsors, and havens for political expression.” Some North County farmland owned and worked by African Americans was subsumed into BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport and highway thoroughfares such as I-695 and I-97.

The  heritage area’s “North County African American Trail” consists of a route through communities, with a half-mile buffer on either side of the route, from Pumphrey to Harmans, based on a copyrighted heritage-related bus tour developed by the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society (NACPS), entitled “The Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society (NACPS) presents a Historical and Educational Tour of African American Enclaves and Sites in Northern Anne Arundel County.” The non-profit organization was founded in 2005 to collect, document, preserve, and share the contributions of African Americans in the history and culture of Northern Anne Arundel County and Maryland. The copyrighted tour was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County (ACAAC) and Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC). The tour follows a route through seven North County communities. Commencing in Pumphrey, on Belle Grove Road, the next stop was Furnace Branch, located on Crain Highway and Furnace Branch Road. The third “stop” was Freetown, on Freetown Road, followed by Marley Neck, located on Solley Road. The fifth “stop” was the community of Magothy/Pasadena, located on Artic Drive. This was the furthermost stop to the east; the tour now headed west, to Queenstown, located on Queenstown Road, and ended in Harmans/Dorsey, located on Dorsey Road.

Heritage sites found in the communities along the Trail include various sites in the Pumphrey Community such as St. John United Methodist Church; the John Wesley United Methodist Church in Furnace Branch; the Freetown Historic District in Freetown and a marker for the former Rosenwald School at the site; the Marley Neck Rosenwald School, Hall United Methodist Church and a “stone altar” on the site in Marley Neck; the Mt. Zion United Church and former Magothy Rosenwald School in Magothy/Pasadena: the Queenstown Park, former Queenstown Rosenwald School, and the Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Queenstown; and the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church and a marker for the former Harmans Rosenwald School in Harmans. The organization known as NACPS (see above) plans to resume offering this narrated bus tour in 2023, and additional interpretive opportunities are in the works.

Content excerpted from Boundary Amendment Proposal of 2021.