Sumner Hall’s children’s education initiative began early in 2018 when a group of educators met to discuss ways that we could enhance the community’s understanding of African American history and culture. The group includes current and retired public and private school teachers, professors of education at Washington College, and librarians from the Kent County Public Library. Challenged to design and develop programs with volunteer consultants for the volunteer-managed Sumner Hall, the group decided to focus its efforts in three areas: (1) African American Read-Ins; (2) Chestertown Tea Party Play and Parade; (3) Book Boxes and Teacher Trunks.
(1) 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 has hosted Kent County’s program in 2019 and 2020 and we expect to do the same in February 2021. If we can develop the interest, the education committee would like to offer several of these each year, perhaps targeted at different age groups and in partnership with other organizations.
(2) Chestertown Tea Party Play 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. Since Chestertown’s Tea Party 2020 has been cancelled due to the national public health crisis, we will produce our next drama in 2021: Respect for Mumbet, based on a book written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Alix Delinois.
(3) Book Boxes and Teacher Trunks. Sumner Hall has a collection of nearly 300 books about African American history and culture for children and young adults. Since our goal is to assist teachers, we have organized them into themed Book Boxes and Teacher Trunks. These are available for use at Sumner Hall or may be checked out for classroom or home school use. You can find a current list of our books organized by subject matter by clicking here or a cross-referenced, annotated list here. If you have questions about this resource, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about teaching history through young adult literature, use this link. We are able to make these books available to the community thanks to generous donations from individuals and grants from the Chestertown Library Foundation.