Welcome to Sumner Hall!  Located in historic Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, this is one of two existing African American G.A.R. buildings still standing in the United States. Built circa 1908 and fully restored in 2014, it serves today as a museum, educational site, performance stage, social hall, and gallery.  Sumner Hall is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, funded by donations and memberships.

We preserve Sumner Hall as a place of remembrance of the contributions of African Americans who served in the U.S. Civil War by (1) honoring all African American veterans of the U.S. Armed Services; (2) promoting an understanding of the African American experience within the overall context of American history and culture; and, (3) advocating for social justice and racial equity in all aspects of civic life. 

HOURS OF OPERATION: Sumner Hall is open to the public each Saturday of the year from 10 AM – 1 PM unless otherwise noted on our website (www.sumnerhall.org). Special visits may be arranged at other times by contacting us at info@sumnerhall.org. Sumner Hall will be closed to the public on Saturday morning, October 8th; it will reopen at 4:00 pm for the Reception and Book Signing, The Journey of Monifa, by Ruby Moore Johnson

We would like to hear from you! To contact us, please call 443.282.0023 and leave a message or send us an email:  info@sumnerhall.org;  we will be back in touch with you soon.  Or, you may contact us by mail.  Our address is 208 South Queen Street, Chestertown, Maryland 21620.

Kent County African American Veterans

Since the earliest call to arms, African Americans from Kent County, Maryland, have answered. Sumner Hall was built by African American veterans from Kent County, and is a place of remembrance. It is the honor and responsibility of Sumner Hall to identify and recognize these local heroes. To date, the Sumner Hall Veterans Project has identified almost 1,700 African American men and women from Kent County who have served in the military, beginning in the Revolutionary War until the present day.   We invite the community to contact us with the names of additional veterans so that we can add them to our honor roll. Please also click on the button below to visit the honor roll, which consists of a database documenting the military service of African Americans from Kent County.

African American Veterans from Kent County Database

In addition, as part of the 2022 Legacy Day celebrations to honor African American veterans, a booklet was published by Sumner Hall that offers further details and discussion of the history of African Americans from Kent County in the military. Click on the image to download a PDF version of African American Veterans from Kent County.

Custodians of the Commodore Collection

Sumner Hall is proud to share with our supporters the successful effort to rescue and preserve a significant collection of local records.

“The Commodore Collection of original historical documents on the early experiences of African Americans in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties is a rare find,” according to Dr. Ruth Shoge, First Vice President of Sumner Hall. “The documents, which are intellectually enriching, also evoke an emotional response to the harsh reality of the lives of enslaved and freed Black people in 17th and 18th century America,” she continued. “It is very important to Sumner Hall that this collection has been given to us in perpetuity. The ownership of this collection is an honor and, in a special way, a homecoming for the memories of our ancestors. This collection supports our mission of promoting an understanding of the African American experience within the overall context of American history and culture.”

Thanks to the efforts of local Black residents and the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, approximately 2,000 pages of documents were purchased from Dixon’s Crumpton Auction this spring. The collection, named after Washington College’s first local Black alumnus, Norris Commodore ’73, will belong to Sumner Hall but is being conserved and archived at the school’s Miller Library. Mr. Commodore, who has deep roots here, gave generously toward the acquisition cost and was joined by the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Kent Cultural Alliance and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The papers are being digitized as a part of the Chesapeake Heartland Project and several can already be viewed online here. President of Sumner Hall’s Board of Directors, Larry Wilson, says, “The Commodore Collection is a very meaningful record of African American life and survival. I believe that it is very important to know our history and to learn from the lives of our ancestors as we work together for equal rights, justice and freedom in this county and across the country. We look forward to having exhibits at Sumner Hall based on these materials soon.”

Please note that the Commodore Collection is not currently exhibited at Sumner Hall.  The artifacts are undergoing conservation at this time.

View The Commodore Collection