The Other Annapolis

April 15, 1994

Appreciation for local history is part of the glue that holds nTC communities together and provides perspective for their future development. That's one reason it has been heartening to see so many good picture books published about the past in various parts of Maryland in recent years.

The big news on this front in Anne Arundel County is the release by the Annapolis Publishing Co. of Philip L. Brown's "The Other Annapolis." The handsome volume charts in pictures and text the life of the state capital's African-American community from 1900 to 1950.

Mr. Brown is eminently qualified to write such a tome. Now 85 years old, he was born in Annapolis and worked 47 years in the local school system. His previous book, "A Century of 'Separate but Equal'," was published in 1988.

"The Other Annapolis" covers a topic that has previously received scant attention.

Sun staffer Jacques Kelly's 1989 work, "Anne Arundel County, a pictorial history," included some photographs about African-American life but its scope was the county as a whole. By focusing on Annapolis alone, Mr. Brown is able to document in detail activities of the city's black community during some of the harshest years of segregation.

There are nostalgic photos of Carr's and Sparrow's beaches, of old churches, social events, the Naval Academy. Many of the pictures are from the old Fourth Ward, defined by such streets as Northwest, Carroll, Calvert, Clay, Washington, Monument and Pleasant.

"The Fourth Ward, where most of the colored people lived, was the Harlem of Annapolis," Mr. Brown writes. "This was where the action was. Those not living in this area, going out for the night or seeking entertainment, converged on this area. The one movie, the taverns, the hotels, the eateries and the Elks Club were all located in the Fourth Ward."

In a very personal epilogue, Mr. Brown notes that despite the end of formal segregation, "the other Annapolis still exists in some respects." Indeed, few cities the size of Annapolis have such a disparity between rich and poor. The author is not optimistic about the foreseeable future, either. In the waning days of the 20th century, he writes, Annapolis blacks "seem in many ways less well-educated, poorer and more dismally postured to improve their situation than they have ever been."

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