Book tells of 'other Annapolis'

April 11, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The latest pictorial history of Annapolis contains no photos of sailboats or brick colonial homes.

The author, Philip L. Brown, set out to illustrate "the other Annapolis" -- the one that the town's black residents knew between 1900 and 1950.

"I didn't know anybody who was sailing," said Mr. Brown, 85, a former Anne Arundel teacher and school administrator.

"The Other Annapolis" contains 148 pages and more than 175 black-and-white photos showing life in Annapolis from a black resident's perspective. The photos include shots of decaying tenement houses on Block Court; oyster shuckers at McNasby's Seafood Co.; classes in segregated schools; and black church congregations.

Mr. Brown said he had thought about writing the book for nearly 20 years but did not get up the nerve until a few years ago after he successfully published another book on segregated schools in Anne Arundel.

Two years ago, Mr. Brown sent notices to friends and community groups soliciting old photographs. At the same time, he started work on the text, writing it long-hand and recopying his notes to make them legible for the typist.

The book was released on Feb. 25 by Annapolis Publishing Co., which printed 2,000 copies.

"It was actually what I had in mind," Mr. Brown said. "It may not have been what other people had in mind. But some people would have had different experiences."

The son of a grocer, Mr. Brown grew up in Annapolis and resides in Arundel on the Bay with his wife of 62 years, Rachel. Much of the book reflects his own recollections about Annapolis in the first half of this century. Many of the photos are from his own collection.

In broad strokes, Mr. Brown describes life for what he calls "colored" Annapolitans, showing their schools, work, recreation, churches, community associations and death.

Mr. Brown said the experiences of black Annapolitans often was different from those of white residents, and he wanted to set their experiences down in print before the memories were lost. "I always did have a liking for history," he said. "I hated to see people passing, and it would be lost with them."

He said residents who grew up after 1950 are surprised to learn about the life of segregated Annapolis. In those days, the Star was the only movie theater in town that permitted black patrons; black schoolchildren were allowed fewer days in schools and black teachers were paid less; and black waiters at the Naval Academy could be fired if they were caught eating leftover food.

But the book shows good times as well: fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, frolicking at Carr's Beach, marching in Memorial Day parades.

Much of the book focuses on Ward 4, the city's predominantly black neighborhood, which provided homes for wealthy black business owners as well as poor black workers. Nearly always the ward carried enough political clout to elect one black alderman to the City Council.

"Lots of persons not around at that time need it pointed out to them that things were accomplished," Mr. Brown said. "I hope people can get a better understanding of what life was like."

Mr. Brown said the most positive changes since 1950 have been the integration of schools and the opening of other career options. But he said Annapolis remains a divided city. Segregation, he noted, has been replaced by social problems.

"For many blacks, there seems to be neither a vision of what they should strive for, nor any conviction that it is worth the trouble," Mr. Brown noted. He said he hopes his book will "serve as a reminder of where we have been and what we have been able to accomplish."

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