Welcome to stop number 7.
Look across the street and you will see 218 North Lincoln Street. This Craftsman style home was built around 1920 for Kennett Square’s beloved teacher, Mary Davis Lang, affectionately known as Miss Mame. The Kennett Consolidated School District Kindergarten Center on Centre Street is named to honor her devotion to educating her students for over 40 years.
In 1872, Susie Goodwin was the first black applicant to pass the teacher examination in Chester County. She was quickly hired as an assistant to the principal of the Howard School in Wilmington, DE. In 1904, fifty-four black citizens in Kennett Square signed a petition protesting the separation of black students from white students in the public schools. When the new consolidated school was built in 1932, it could claim that it was integrated; however, the black students were taught by black teachers in classrooms separate from white students. It wasn’t until 1954 that the classrooms were truly integrated.
The following story was taken from an essay by Terence Maguire. In it, he illustrates the power of the written word and what would be done to silence those words.
Book Banning in Maryland
Throughout history, books have been influential. This story concerns a book and a father and son. The father was a preacher who in earlier years had earned enough money to purchase his freedom. He was “much esteemed as an inoffensive and industrious man.” His son was a skilled and intelligent blacksmith --but a slave. Having encountered Harriet Tubman in one of her journeys south, however, he was inspired to be free. Once the chance arose, he made his way first to Philadelphia and thereafter to Canada.
After a year his father took a trip to Canada to see his son, and was delighted to find him thriving. Upon returning home, the father found himself visited by “a party of gentlemen.” They searched his house and found incriminating evidence that he supported the UGRR. The Reverend was charged with possessing material that could arouse “discontent” among slaves.
Here we must give credit to the local judicial system as it allowed the father to be defended. After all, he himself had used maps and train schedules to visit his son. That his son had urged the elder Green to incite others to flight did not mean that the father had actually done so. The court found him innocent of those charges.
However, there could be no doubt about his guilt in one charge: he had in his home a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In Maryland, as in other Southern states, simple possession of that book was illegal. And so, the old minister was sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary.
The father was freed sometime later, after the Civil War; but he suffered there for many years.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written in 1852 as a reaction to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. 300,000 copies were sold in its first year of publication and was the second most popular book in the 1800’s, second only to the Bible. Stowe received many threats from Southern critics. Its publication helped to push the United States toward the Civil War.
Continue to the corner, cross the street, and turn right on West Sickles Street. Continue walking on West Sickles Street to the Friends Meeting House on your left.