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our storIES

The story of Highland Beach and its sister community, Venice Beach, is one of triumph in a time of much adversity for African Americans. 


In the late 1800's the Chesapeake Bay beaches were emerging as popular resort destinations for urban elite in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. During this time of segregation and Jim Crow laws the educated, prosperous community of African American professionals, especially in Washington, D.C., had no place to relax and enjoy a summer swim or a beach outing. Highland Beach, and later Venice Beach, helped fill that need. 

Porch Stories

Porch Stories is one of the museum's key initiatives. These videotaped interviews capture the recollections and insights into family histories of long-time residents. They are vital to our mission to document the life and times of Highland Beach and Venice Beach. As our special guests reminiscence about their summers on the Bay, it is clear just how special this community is.

More than a Century at Highland Beach, Dena Sewell Shares Her Family’s History

Dena Sewell is the director at the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center. It is a labor of love for Ms. Sewell.


She knows the community well, having spent every summer in Highland Beach as a child. She is now a full-time resident. It was Ms. Sewell’s vision that brought Porch Stories to life. In her Porch Story, Ms. Sewell, a retired teacher, educates us as she shares her family’s history in the community. See her Porch Story.

Two Sisters - One Rich History

The Holmes sisters, Johanne Holmes Greer and Linda Holmes Newton, are life-long summer residents of Highland Beach and Venice Beach, Maryland.


Their family history in these communities goes back to their grandparents. Theirs is a history rich with family traditions.


Longtime friend and docent Ben Secundy sat down with the two sisters as they shared their memories and opened their family photo album for us to take a look.  See Their Porch Story here.

Judy Whitted Biagas - Summering in Highland Beach

Judy Whitted Biagas, a life-long summer resident of Highland Beach, recalls the fun and friendships she made at the beach.

She says those tight friendships may have stemmed from the sharing of homes and bedrooms during those summer months at the beach. 

Her memories include swimming, crabbing, the ice man, the ice cream man... and some incredible jellyfish sting remedies that aren't exactly recommended today.

Ms. Biagas recalls it all with a wry smile in her Porch Story with museum director Dena Sewell.

Greg Gwaltney Walks Down Memory Lane in Venice Beach

Digging up soft shell crabs and having them for breakfast, the total freedom he felt as a 12-year-old boy boating on the Chesapeake Bay, and the lessons learned from his grandfather… Greg Gwaltney’s memories of his childhood come to life in his Porch Story.

He shares family photos and tells the story of how he came to live full-time in Venice Beach.


See his Porch Story here.

Dr. DeMaurice "Bucky" Moses on His Family's History in Annapolis

DeMaurice “Bucky” Moses’ family history can be traced to the 1700s in Annapolis.


His grandfather Cornelius Ridgley built the first house in Venice Beach in 1922. Mr. Ridgley was a Chesapeake Bay waterman and an athlete. In the early 1900s he played baseball and was a star football player at Howard University.

Bucky Moses was also an athlete - a swimmer. His summers at the beach played a key role in his collegiate swimming career at Yale University.


Dr. Moses recalls his family history, his summers in Venice Beach, the secret to his success in the pool, and the love he found late in life after his first wife died. It's a love that had its genesis in the 1950s on the beach in Highland Beach.


See his Porch Story here.

Charlene Drew Jarvis Recalls Her Childhood at the Beach

Dr. Charles R. Drew, his wife Lenore, their three daughters, and son spent summers in Highland Beach. Charlene Drew Jarvis, the second eldest, has wonderful memories of her father, mother, sisters Bebe and Sylvia, and brother Charlie at the beach.


Dr. Drew was a surgeon, medical researcher, and a pioneer in the field of blood transfusions. In his professional work, he was also a civil rights activist, protesting against the practice of racial segregation in the blood donations. But, at the beach, that was family time, precious family time.

Dr. Jarvis is herself an accomplished scientist, educator, and elected official.  She worked as a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health. She served six terms on the Council of the District of Columbia, and was the president of Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. After all her career success, Dr. Jarvis wanted to come back to the beach. She bought a summer home in Venice Beach in 1996.


She says her fondest memories are of her father and family and the special times they had together - See the video.

Recollections of Summer with Jack Nelson

Jack Nelson is the co-author of the definitive book on Highland Beach, Highland Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland's First African American Incorporated Town. Mr. Nelson remembers summers in Highland Beach from a very young age. 


He spoke with life-long resident and museum docent Ben Secundy at his home in Venice Beach


Watch the video here.

The Wormley Family Connections to Highland Beach with Don Graves

Don Graves, a life-long resident of Highland Beach, says the community didn't just emerge from nowhere in 1893.

His extensive research shows the roots of the community began decades before, in the civil rights movement before the Civil War, when key relationships were formed.

Mr. Graves is a descendant of famed Washington, D.C. hotelier James Wormley. See his Porch Story.

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