Children’s Education Initiative

Sumner Hall’s children’s education initiative began early in 2018 when a group of volunteers met to discuss ways that we could enhance the community’s understanding of African American history and culture. These volunteers include current and retired public and private school teachers, professors of Education from Washington College and librarians from the Kent County Public Library.

After identifying the elements of a comprehensive program, the group agreed that the two major building blocks of this initiation should be a Children’s Library at Sumner Hall and Resources for Teachers. In addition, the group believed that Sumner Hall should find a way to share African American history and culture during major county festivals, beginning with the Chestertown Tea Party. It also decided to sponsor and co-sponsor African American Read-Ins and to find opportunities to support other educational programs for children.



Sumner Hall has a collection of more than 500 books about African American history and culture for children and young adults. We are able to make these books available to the community thanks to generous donations from individuals and grants from the Chestertown Library Foundation. Visitors to Sumner Hall are welcomed to enjoy our collection while there.



Since most children are introduced to African American History and Culture in their classrooms, we have organized most of our library in a way to be helpful to teachers of elementary and middle school children.  We have created themed Teacher Trunks and Book Boxes that teachers may borrow for classroom use.  While the Book Boxes just contain books, Teacher Trunks include other teaching resources as well, including games, toys, musical instruments, music CDs, videos and suggested lesson plans.   These may be used at Sumner Hall or checked out for classroom or home school use.  

  • Teacher Trunks:
    At this time there are seven Teacher Trunks. The first three, Biographies of Notable African Americans, also include “sit-upons” for student use.  The other Teacher Trunks are: 4) African Culture; 5) Henry Highland Garnet; 6) U. S. Presidents and Notable African Americans; and 7) Reconstruction. The contents of these Teacher Trunks may be seen here.
  • Book Boxes:
    The titles of the Book Boxes are: 1) Africa: Culture and Legends; 2) Board and Cloth Books for Toddlers: General; 3) Board and Cloth Books for Toddlers: History; 4) Civil Rights: Protests and Segregation; 5) Biographies of Civil Rights Leaders; 6) Civil Rights Chapter Books; 7) African American History; 8) U. S. Presidents and Government Leaders; 9) Holidays; 10) Identity, Character and Family; 11) Music: History, Song and Dance; 12) Music: Singers, Dancers and Instrumentalists; 13) Poetry, Writers and The Arts; 14) Revolutionary War; 15) Science / Math / Inventors / Explorers; 16) Slavery; and 17) Sports. We also have a collection of books for young adults.  The contents of these Book Boxes and the list of books for young adults may be seen here.



In 2019, for the first time, Sumner Hall was represented with a small marching unit representing African American Revolutionary War soldiers. In addition, it produced the first annual Tea Party play dedicated to African American History: The Story of Ona Judge, a woman enslaved to George Washington who escaped to freedom. It brought a diverse cast to the Garfield Center for the Arts stage, and it played to a full house. Since Chestertown’s Tea Party 2020 was cancelled due to the national public health crisis, our second play was also postponed. Join us at the next Tea Party celebration for Respect for Mumbet, a story and music showcased based on the book written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Alix Delinois.



For several years the Department of Education of Washington College and the Kent County Public Library have co-sponsored the local celebration of the national African American Read-In, founded in 1989 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Sumner Hall became a new co-producer of this event in 2019, hosting the program that year and in 2020. Due to restrictions limiting social gatherings during the COVID-19 era, the 2021 program is virtual. In addition to this annual read-in, the Education Committee was exploring others in partnership with other organizations.



Sumner Hall is pleased to present a unique children’s program designed, produced and directed by Teverly Swinson, a member of SmalltownsBIGARTISTS (STBA). STBA is a local music collective made up of musicians, poets, technicians, producers and deejays. With the help of other local community organizations, STBA Littles will present a project where kids can act, record, sing, dance and put on an original production. The kids will attend short workshops in acting, rapping, dancing, etc., with appropriate mentors for each workshop. After the final session, the kids will present an original “time travel” production, highlighting the history and culture of Chestertown’s African American business owners, from the 1920s to the present day. This project is jointly funded by the Maryland Heritage Areas Association and the Chesapeake Heartland Project.