Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Singing and Praying Band in Kent Co., MD

From the Maryland Eastern Shore: photos from fieldwork on the Delmarva Peninsula in 2001: Mt. Olive AME Church, Kent County. The event was a reunion during revival week, and a visit from another Maryland church.

This particular event was a special song service, a revival of an old practice that had died out on the Shore in living memory, but has continued in a few congregations in Maryland on the western side of the Chesapeake: the "singing and praying band." It is a special worship service that includes ceremonial aspects that are surprisingly similar to the well-documented "ring shout" of the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands.

Many Black congregations and communities on the Eastern Shore are among the oldest continuous Black communities in the United States. This service took place only a few miles from the plantation where Harriett Tubman came of age as a slave.

There are also families on the Shore who trace their ancestry to colonial free Black communities. Some in the Virginia counties claim descent from Black families who had never been enslaved, but were, back in the 17th Century, formerly-indentured servants who themselves owned slaves.

I was hired to document the event by the Kent County Arts Council. I also have digital and analog audio, and video footage. For more information see my website.

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