Tarence Bailey is the 5x great-nephew of abolitionist and Easton’s most famous native son, Frederick Douglass. He is currently coordinating a project known as ‘Operation Frederick Douglass on the Hill’, which will honor both his uncle and the Hill Community in Easton, the oldest African-American community still in existence in the country.
EEDC: Tell us about Operation Frederick Douglass on the Hill?
Tarence Bailey (TB): Well, the first part is the Frederick Douglass mural, located in the Hill section of Easton. The mural will be a timeline of what shaped Frederick Douglass and then the results of that shaping on the nation.
EEDC: The muralist/artist is internationally known Michael Rosato, who created the Harriet Tubman mural in Cambridge. How did he get involved in the project?
TB: It came down to being in the right place at the right time with the right person. A friend of the family, Michelle Garcia-Daniels, a social and political activist from Rochester, NY, asked for a tour of the Eastern Shore. I casually mentioned that it’d be nice to get a mural in recognition of my uncle here, and she said, ‘Hey, if you can get Michael Rosato to do it, I’ll pay for it.’ Michael agreed. Of course, COVID slowed us down, but here we are.
We’re currently doing a fundraiser through Mid-Shore Community Foundation with a goal of $50,000 that will cover preparing the site and its upkeep after the mural’s installation, along with the events that will be part of the unveiling.
EEDC: Is this fundraiser reaching people outside of the area?
TB: Frederic Douglass had a global outreach and global voice, not just in America but also in Ireland, the UK, Canada, and even Haiti. The first donation we ever got came from California, and the second was from the UK. There’s already an interest across the pond in expectation of this mural.
EEDC: What has the reception been from the town of Easton?
TB: They’re just as excited as I am. I think there’s a realization that this mural will bring people to Easton. Along with that, people who don’t know about the Hill will know about it once that mural is up.
Ask just about anyone in the country, any African-American in the country, whether they’ve seen the Harriet Tubman Take My Hand mural. They might not be able to tell you who did it, but they will know about it. They’ve seen it in a magazine or on the internet, and they know it’s in Cambridge, Maryland. I know this because whether I’m in Chicago or California, people ask me about that mural. The Harriet Tubman mural is an incredible piece of work that captures one moment in her life. But the Frederick Douglass mural will tell a story of what shaped him and then the repercussions of his life on American history.
EEDC: How do you think the mural will affect the Hill community?
TB: I feel that the Hill is one place in the United States that African-Americans all over the country need to visit at least once in their lifetime because it’s the only one of its kind. I also hope to see a revitalization happening in the area.
The Hill, at one point, was a self-sufficient community. You didn’t have to leave the Hill for much of anything. You had two food stores, an automotive shop, a nightclub, a package store, even an arcade. I’d like to see that happen again.
It would be great not only for someone interested in creating a new business, but it would also be a service to the community. It would be important both for the people already here and for people visiting the community. I think it’d be helpful if there were some incentives offered that would bring back the historical heritage of the Hill by making it self-sufficient like it once was.
EEDC: Tell me about who you are.
TB: I was born in Easton and raised on the Hill. I moved away at the age of 16 and finished high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I enlisted in the army, then returned to the shore and raised two kids. I’m also a disabled veteran.
EEDC: Being in the service is part of your family history. Almost a heritage, right?
TB: I, myself, am an Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. My father was drafted into Vietnam, and yes, there are a few purple hearts in our immediate family history.
But it also goes back to my uncle, Frederick, whose two sons Henry Douglass and Charles Remond Douglass served with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Lewis was the first African-American Sergeant Major in US history, and Charles was the first African American to enlist for service during the Civil War. Lewis was not even given an honorable discharge because he had to pick between a pension or an honorable discharge. He took the pension. That was 150 years ago.
This summer, both men will be disinterred from Harmony Cemetery in PG Country and buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. They are painted in the mural, and they, too, will be honored on the Hill since their bloodline is from Talbot County.
EEDC: What’s next for you?
TB: Right now, I’m concerned with the mural, which will be completed in a few days. We’re working on getting the site prepared and getting the mural up. I’m also working on the unveiling, which I envision will be a big event and celebration in Easton.
EEDC: When do you anticipate the unveiling?
TB: If everything goes well and we can raise the money with the fundraiser, we can install it while they’re still warm weather, probably early fall.
For more about Operation Frederick Douglass on the Hill, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/893126391477476/
Donations can be made to the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Douglass Mural Project Fund