Bill seeks protection for hospital cemetery

State would maintain graves at Crownsville

February 19, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

While an Annapolis historian searches for the names of African-Americans buried anonymously at the Crownsville Hospital Center cemetery, she has found a state delegate who wants to help her preserve the historic site.

Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg introduced legislation yesterday that would require -- if the psychiatric hospital is closed as expected -- that the state maintain the cemetery and mark it with a monument.

It also would ban the state from selling the cemetery and land that allows access to it.

"We should make sure that these people have peace in death," said Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat. "They may not have had it in life."

The cemetery sits on a hilly, wooded plot next to Interstate 97 north of Annapolis. From the time Crownsville opened in 1911 as the Hospital for the Negro Insane until about 1953, many of its patients were interred beneath flat, numbered concrete blocks.

"There was no dignity in life and now to have no dignity in death is just horrible," said Annapolis historian Janice Hayes-Williams, who recently had expressed concern over who would maintain the site.

A few months ago, she started trying to identify the approximately 1,400 nameless bodies interred at the Crownsville cemetery. Along with a cast of volunteers, she has been examining death records at the state archives in Annapolis.

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