Annapolis waterman weaves history of the bay, recipes into `Ebony Eyes'

February 17, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A new seafood recipe book by Annapolis waterman Vincent O. Leggett captures more than the flavor of the Chesapeake Bay between its covers.

It also offers a look at the lives and images of the bay's African-American captains, fishermen, crab pickers, oyster shuckers and boat builders framing a sampling of recipes taken from more than a dozen ports.

"The Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes," released in December through the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, is Leggett's latest effort to weave African-American maritime experiences into bay legacy.

The group will sponsor a book signing, reception and concert Sunday featuring poetry of the bay from Melanie Redding, who is featured in the book, and songs of the sea by Kindred Spirits, a contemporary a capella gospel group from Eastern United Methodist Church in Baltimore.

The book signing is from noon to 3 p.m. at the Historic Annapolis Foundation Maritime Museum Store, and the reception and concert begin at 3: 30 p.m. at O'Brien's Raw Bar and Restaurant.

"It runs contrary to everything that people have seen and heard for the last 200 years -- African-Americans were part of bay history," Leggett said. "From getting crabs to building boats, all the stops along the way, to bringing the dish out on a silver platter, blacks were a part of that process."

Leggett has been collecting photographs, records and history about black maritime workers throughout Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore for 15 years.

Three years ago, he self-published "Blacks of the Chesapeake," a 24-page pictorial history showing the black presence on the bay and put together an exhibit of photographs and records that was displayed at the World Trade Center in Baltimore. Most of the 2,000 copies of the book were given to schools, visitors to the exhibits and potential sponsors to help foster awareness of the African-American maritime experience.

By May 1999, there was so much interest in his work that Leggett created the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, a nonprofit history and preservation group that paid the $15,000 publication cost of the latest book. Leggett is president of the group, which does lectures, exhibits and field trips for students in addition to funding writing projects.

The 32-page "Ebony Eyes," like its predecessor, includes images of black watermen, their vessels and their catches. Included are poems inspired by bay workers and reflections from Leggett.

At the centerpiece of the book are recipes from around the bay from some of the notable black cooks Leggett met in his journeys.

Vincent Leggett will be selling and signing copies of "The Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes" from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Annapolis Foundation Maritime Museum Store at the Annapolis City Dock, across from the Kunta Kinte statue.

A reception and concert will be held from 3: 30 p.m. to 6: 30 p.m. at O'Brien's Raw Bar, 113 Main St. The cost is $10 at the door. Donations benefit the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation.

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