Sumner Hall’s children’s education initiative began early in 2018 when a group of volunteers met to discuss ways to 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 800 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.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
We have organized most of our library in a way to be helpful for elementary and middle school teachers introducing African American history and culture in their classrooms. 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. Sumner Hall staff and volunteers are also available to conduct teacher training programs, both “in person” and virtually.
- 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.
CHESTERTOWN TEA PARTY AND PARADE
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. Tea Party 2020 and 2021 did not take place, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Sumner Hall re-joined the celebration by having a unit in the marching band and by producing a show on the main stage.
In 2023, Sumner Hall staged a play called “Respect for Mumbet” about Mumbet, later Elizabeth Freeman, the first enslaved African American to successfully sue for her freedom in Massachusetts. Excerpts from the performance at the Garfield Center for the Arts can be seen in the following video.
AFRICAN AMERICAN READ-INS
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 and host of this event in 2019.