Hidden Historical Gems: Acknowledging a Painful Past

I took the same path home after school everyday until I got my driver’s license. We turned down a back road, adjacent to a river and some train tracks, back up to the neighborhood where many of my classmates lived. Across that river and those train tracks, less than five miles from my house, was the Sykesville Historic District in Sykesville, Maryland.

I knew the Victorian storefronts, businesses and eateries well. I didn’t know, tucked up in the residential area of the old town, there was a hidden and historic landmark: the Colored Schoolhouse, now called the Historic Sykesville Colored Schoolhouse, according to CBS Baltimore.

The school opened on Jan. 4, 1904 and cost $2 per term for children outside of Carroll County and the neighboring Howard County. The city of Sykesville kept a timeline of the Historic Colored Schoolhouse, which was auctioned off nearly 40 years later for just $100.

Sykesville Online spoke to 91-year-old Warren Dorsey and his 87-year-old sister, Rosie, who attended the schoolhouse in the 1920s. In Sykesville Online’s post, they recounted their family’s history and the lack of resources at the school. All books, desks, and other school materials were hand-me-downs.

Growing up, I paid very little attention to history, especially to the history of African Americans. As a black student learning in a predominantly white school system, it was difficult to hear. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found joy in understanding the world I live in.

There are so many untold stories just miles from our homes. We can learn about ourselves and about the past in the most familiar and overlooked places. I recently traveled to the Historic Sykesville Colored Schoolhouse. Restored in the early 2000s, the pale yellow building wouldn’t have caught my attention. It was no longer derelict, just empty, as COVID-19 has prevented students from taking field trips to the historic site.

Standing on that hill, staring at the small, yellow hutch of a school, I wonder how many people know it’s here and what it is. I wonder about the people who restored it, about the people who originally built it and those, like the Warrens, who attended it. With that in mind, I hope to be able to talk to those who preserve the history of Carroll and Howard counties and encourage all of us, regardless of what state we’re in, to understand the history of our homes.

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