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Finding Reconstruction Era History in Frederick, MD

August 22, 2023

Frederick County African American History

Finding Reconstruction Era History in Frederick, MD 

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a major step toward securing freedom for the millions of Black Americans held in bondage. However, this sweeping executive action did nothing to aid in the plight of enslaved people held in Maryland, a state that remained loyal to the United States. 

Those enslaved in Maryland had to wait until November 1, 1864, almost two years later, to taste freedom themselves. On that date, a new Maryland constitution went into effect that abolished slavery in the state forever. 

The two dates - January 1, 1863 and November 1, 1864 - both had significant importance for Black residents in the City of Frederick. They ushered in the era of Reconstruction, a time period of great turbulence and danger for Black Fredericktonians that remains etched on the landscape today. 

Let’s take a look at some sites where you can find Reconstruction-era history in Frederick today. 

All Saints Street

Frederick_Visitor_Center_GID_MMason_2022_7 Frederick Visitor Center_1.jpgLong a hub of Black life in Frederick County, Downtown Frederick is a place to explore the legacy of Reconstruction (pictured on the left). 

When slavery was outlawed in Maryland in 1864, Frederick already had a large free Black population. This community was centered on All Saints Street at the heart of Downtown Frederick, where Black businesses, stores, churches, and homes abounded. 

The African American Research Cultural and Heritage Society (AARCH) hosts a monthly walking tour that takes visitors to these important sites, sharing the stories of the individuals who shaped Black life in Frederick in the 19th and 20th centuries. 


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City Hall

On October 12-13, 1864, Frederick’s voters (all white and male in 1864) voted in favor of approving a new Maryland constitution that outlawed slavery in the state. The vote took place at the Frederick County Courthouse, now City Hall (pictured on the right). Long the center of civic life in Frederick County for white Fredericktonians, with the ending of slavery and the beginning of Reconstruction, Black residents began using the space to further the interests of their community. 


Quinn Chapel AME Church

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This historic Black congregation on 3rd Street dates back to the early 19th century, and their church to 1855 (pictured on the left). As Reconstruction began in the 1860s, the church became a prominent hub of social advancement for Black Fredericktonians. The church became home to one of Frederick County’s “Freedmen Schools,” managed by the Freedmen’s Bureau of the Federal government. These schools offered opportunities for Black Fredericktonians to get an education that was often previously denied them. 

These are just a handful of places you can explore these important stories. Visit Frederick offers a virtual tour of Black History in Downtown Frederick as well as of Frederick County. You can find them on the Visit Frederick website or by clicking directly below: 

Downtown Frederick Black History Tour

Frederick County Black History Driving Tour 

Images courtesy of Visit Frederick




Jake Wynn

Contributing Author: Jake Wynn

Jake Wynn is the Senior Marketing and Communications Manager at Visit Frederick. Read More