A Brief History of the Black Community of Catonsville, Md



Catonsville has been the home for numerous Black families both during and after the slavery years. At least one Black family functioned very well in Catonsville during slavery. That was the family of Remus Adams, a Black man who owned a blacksmith business at the intersection of Frederick Road and Bloomsbury Avenue. Catonsville Elementary School is located on the property previously owned by this Black man.

At least one Black man, William Ebb, has traced in Catonsville where he was born into slavery. He was eventually freed by his master by the name of Mr. Lurman. At the onset of the Civil War, he volunteered and was injured during the war. He died before he could earn a pension; however, his wife did receive $8.00 a month as his surviving widow.

After slavery, the Winters Lane area was the home for numerous Blacks, most emigrating down from Harristown (a small area on the upper end of Winters Lane). These free Blacks owned their own businesses, formed fraternal and civic groups, and did all of those necessary things to make the Winters Lane area a desirable place to live.

As early as 1890 (less than 30 years after the end of slavery) some of the men of the Black community pooled their money and purchased properpty. They created the "Greenwood Electric Park", a highly successful business venture that drew Blacks from all over the Baltimore metropolitan area to the Winters Lane community.

One Black man, William Henry Washington, proved to be the type of man that Blacks could look up to. In the 1800s, though he could not read nor write, and working for a meger salary at a local white school. He was able to purchase his home at 81 Winters Lane (where his only surviving son still lives) Also, he built five (5) other houses in the Oella area (located directly adjacent to Catonsville) - truly a remarkable feat.

Grace A.M.E. Church was built in the mid-1800s and was the first Black place of religion on Winters Lane. It is also the 6th oldest church in Catonsville. There are at least nine other Black churches that religiously serve the community.

The community had a school for Black children that was built shortly after the end of slavery. That building was torn down to the foundation and the Full Gospel Tabernacle Baptist Church was built on the foundation. In the very early days, the Black children were educated only to the 6th grade. Around the early part of the 1900s, a larger building was built for educating the Black youth (Banneker School, PS #21) that went through the 11th grade. In 1951, 12 full years of education was offered.

In early 1995, Louis Diggs, a Catonsville resident, wrote the first ever book on a historically Black community of Baltimore County. Catonsville is one of the forty historically Black comunities within Baltimore County.

His book outlines the Black community during the slavery years; their accomplishments and achievements after slavery; provides a look at four Black families that have roots in Catonsville since the 1800s; gives an indepth look at the various fraternal and civic groups, as well as the history of the Black religious institutions. His book ends with five (5) older Black citizens from the community that provided their remerberances of the Black community of Catonsville as well as Catonsville in general.


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