In several ways the Sotterley Plantation Remembrance Ceremony and Program that took place on November 12, 2012 was very special to the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP).
- It was the last memorial ceremony in which MPCPMP will share sponsorship in the state of Maryland.
- It was the first ceremony completely coordinated and designed by the resident community.
- It was situated on the physical site where traders and the enslaved shared history.
Although no one now knows the names of the twenty-nine Africans who died during the transatlantic voyage to Sotterley, for the first time in history they were honored and remembered. Participants, primarily children, placed carnations in the Patuxent River for each of the ancestors who died during the ocean crossing. According to records researched by Sotterley staff, the Generous Jenny crew in 1720 transported more than 260 Africans across the Atlantic from the Gold Coast. Of these, twenty-nine captive people died and their bodies were thrown overboard. The possibility that people present at the ceremony were related to these “until now forgotten” ancestors is almost mystical. We honored and remembered them. Descriptions of the event can be found in news accounts linked to this page.
During the 18th century, the owners of Sotterley Plantation were involved in the shipping, buying, and selling of Africans. They and their families profitted from the labor of enslaved people for more than one hundred and fifty years in generating wealth and developing the property. This estate is a National Historic Landmark “located on the banks of the Patuxent River in southern Maryland …the sole surviving Tidewater plantation with public access. Older than Mount Vernon and Monticello, Sotterley enters its fourth century as part of the landscape . . . of St. Mary’s County in Southern Maryland.” (Sotterley Plantation Brochure)
Some of those attending this ceremony were descendants of the enslaved who had lived on the plantation and remained in the area for years afterward. Sotterley provided a list of the persons who were emancipated in November, 1864, and access to other records was made available so that people with a long, local family history could begin their personal research. Also present from the St. Mary’s County library system was a person who advised people on genealogical study.
Significantly, the Sotterley ceremony marks the culmination of the project’s activities in 2012. One state is complete, and now we have only to place the physical markers at the three middle passage Maryland sites. When approaching other states in planning for remembrance ceremonies and programs for African ancestors, MPCPMP will present Maryland as a model. These “until now forgotten” ancestors have waited a long time to be remembered. We are proud to mark this as the year we began to repair the broken circle at last.