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 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.
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.
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.
Mr. Graves learned that Mr. Wormley and Frederick Douglass were good friends and strong allies in the fight for freedom for all Black people in the 1840s and 1850s. That friendship continued into the next generation of Douglasses and Wormelys, as he recounts in his Porch Story. Museum Director Dena Sewell spoke with Mr. Graves on the porch of his beautiful and historic home.
Unladylike: The Changemakers
PBS (Public Broadcast System) marked the 100th anniversary of the women's suffrage with a one-hour special on the pioneering women who fought for change.
Mary Church Terrell was featured in one segment. The daughter of former slaves, Mrs. Terrell was a national leader for civil rights and women's suffrage. See the video here.