A HIKE along Sandy Spring's Rural Legacy Trail is much more than exercise in the woods, especially when historian Tony Cohen discusses his research of Maryland's Underground Railroad along the 1.5-mile stretch. For the sixth consecutive year, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Friends of Oakley Cabin are sponsoring Saturday's "Maryland Emancipation Celebration." The free, all-day event combines a historical morning hike honoring the Maryland free blacks and Quakers who helped slaves escape to freedom and programs celebrating the actual anniversary of the freeing of Maryland slaves by a new state constitution on Nov. 1, 1864.
"Because this is our sixth year, more and more people are aware of the fact that slaves in Maryland were freed by popular vote on Nov. 1, 1864. This is one of our goals -- to spread the word about this momentous occasion," said Susan Soderberg, historical preservation planner for the planning commission.
By traversing the various terrains of the Rural Legacy Trail, visitors can imagine pre-emancipation days when slaves may have traveled by foot the path from Woodlawn Manor House's stone barn, which is said to have been a hiding place for escaping slaves, to the safe haven of the free black community on the outskirts of Sandy Spring.
After the hike, the Woodlawn Manor House will open for tours, as will the Sandy Spring Slave Museum & African Art Gallery, where visitors will see, among other exhibits on the African slave trade, a 25-foot-tall slave ship replica with papier-mache models of slaves chained and crowded in confined areas.
Afternoon events at the Oakley Cabin in Brookeville include a living history exhibit in which reenactors talk about the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, a demonstration of open-hearth cooking, cabin tours, gospel choir performances and a lecture on the "Pearl Incident" given by Rockville's Diane Young, descendent of a slave who was caught escaping on a ship, the Pearl. Maryland does not celebrate its emancipation on Jan. 1, when Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, because the declaration was directed only to those states that were in rebellion. Maryland, which never seceded from the Union, was not included in the list of rebellious states. It was the first of the Civil War slave states to free those held in bondage within its boundaries.
MARYLAND EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION -- The Underground Railroad hike begins at 10 from Woodlawn Manor House (Ednor and Norwood roads, Sandy Spring). Woodlawn Manor is open from 10 to noon. The Slave Museum (18524 Brooke Rd., Sandy Spring) is open from 11:30 to 4. The Oakley Cabin (3610 Brookeville Rd., Brookeville) will be open from noon to 4 and will stage living history demonstrations, speakers and gospel choirs primarily from 2 to 3. Parking is available at Woodlawn Manor, the Ross Boddy Center across from the Slave Museum and at the Longwood Recreation Center (19300 Georgia Ave., Brookeville). A shuttle bus will run between the Slave Museum, the Friends Meeting House and Woodlawn Manor from 11 to 2. Another shuttle bus will run between Longwood Recreation Center and Oakley Cabin from 11:30 to 4:30. Call 301-258-4044.