The artist who created the powerful Harriet Tubman mural in Cambridge (featuring the Underground Railroad conductor with hand outstretched) is now using his talents to pay tribute to Frederick Douglass in Easton, Md.
Artist Michael Rosato’s mural of Douglass will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 4 at Idlewild Park in Easton. Its design is still a secret, but it’s meant to teach people about Douglass’s Talbot County origins. The abolitionist was born into slavery 12 miles outside of Easton, spending the first seven or eight years of his life at Holmes Hill Farm which provided young slaves to the Wye House plantation, according to Preservation Maryland.
Holmes Hill Farm no longer exists, but there is a historical marker about four miles from Douglass’s birth site at Easton Denton Road (Maryland Route 328) near the Tuckahoe Creek Bridge.
Tarence Bailey, Sr., great-nephew of Frederick Douglass, has led Operation Frederick Douglass on The Hill, a fundraising effort to commission a mural in his honor in a historic Black neighborhood.
The Hill Community, where the mural is located, is one of the oldest free African American-founded communities still in existence, established in 1788. In the 1870s, Douglass visited multiple times, according to Bailey, stopping to talk to people on the streets and dedicating A.M.E churches including Bethel A.M.E Church-Easton, the Eastern Shore’s oldest congregation.
Bailey hopes that the new mural will draw attention to both Douglass’s contributions and to the Hill neighborhood itself.
“A lot of people who come here [the Eastern Shore] will just drive through on 50, around Easton on the bypass. And it’s a nice summer’s day and they don’t have somewhere in particular to go, but if they knew about some of these places it would draw them to see that.”
Today, the neighborhood is a mix of African Americans, Latinos, and some whites. “The Hill has always been like a sanctuary for people to go to,” Bailey says.
And now, hopefully it will become a draw for visitors, too. “You can’t go wrong with a Michael Rosato mural,” he says.
Bailey tells Bay Bulletin that the first donor to the project came from Michelle Garcia Daniels, a political activist in Rochester, N.Y. When he and his wife gave Daniels a tour of the Eastern Shore, they visited the Harriet Tubman mural and Rosato’s work made a strong impression.
When Daniels donated the money, Bailey says, “that was one of her conditions, that Mike Rosato had to do it.”
In addition to Bailey, Douglass’s great-great-grandson Kevin Green and great-great-great-grandson Kenneth Morris Jr. will take part in the community celebration, and Harriet Tubman’s 5x great-nephew Shelton Hawkins, a community leader from the Hill himself, will emcee the event. Push Play and other musical entertainers will perform.
The celebration will take place 11 a.m.–3 p.m. at Idlewild Park with a ribbon-cutting to follow at Ribbon Cutting Ceremony: 3:30 p.m. at 505 South Street, Easton. Visitors are advised to bring a chair blanket for the Idlewild Park performances.
–Meg Walburn Viviano & Cheryl Costello