America’s historic trail from slavery to civil rights

Date Posted: 21/03/2013

Antietam National Battlefield.

Pictured: Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland.

With 2013 marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it’s the ideal time to plan a group holiday to Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, home to historic sites in Maryland and Virginia that were the catalyst behind this famous order.

Signed by President Abraham Lincoln on 1st January 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation, states that all those enslaved in Confederate territory to be forever free.

Virginia and Maryland are at the heart of this area known as the region Where America Happened™, which reportedly contains more history than any other in the US.

Destination highlights chronicle the African American experience, from slavery to civil rights, such as the Battle of Antietam which was the catalyst for the Emancipation Proclamation.

The region is home to over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic districts, nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, 30 historic main street communities, plus sites from the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War and the War of 1812.

Antietam National Battlefield

A must-see for groups interested in learning more about the Emancipation Proclamation is the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.

The Union victory at the Battle of Antietam (1862) led President Lincoln to release the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation five days later and substantially altered the character of the war from restoration of the Union alone, to freedom for all.

Oatlands Plantation

The Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Virginia was formed from 3,408 acres of farmland by a descendant of one of Virginia’s first families, George Carter.

In 1804 Carter began building a classic Federal-style mansion here and later added a terraced garden and numerous outbuildings to the property, including a propagation greenhouse, a smokehouse and a three-story bank barn.

Just prior to the Civil War, Oatlands housed the largest slave population in Loudoun County, numbering 128 people.

Montpelier, credit Bill Crabtree Jr.

Pictured: Montpelier, Virginia. (Photo credit: Bill Crabtree Jr).

Frederick, Maryland

Two historic sites in Frederick highlight the discourse that occurred over the issue of slavery.

At Kemp Hall, members of the state’s legislature fiercely debated the issue as they met to decide whether to secede from the union. Taney House interprets a property owned by Roger Brooke Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Taney was mainly known for his affiliation with the Dred Scott decision. 

Montpelier, Virginia

The arc of citizenship from 18th century slavery can be found at Montpelier in Virginia, the former home of President James and Dolley Madison.

George Gilmore and his family were born into slavery here, however by December 1865 the Gilmore’s were freed. The Gilmores eventually purchased land from Madison to establish a small farm and log cabin which would later be home to the family for at least three generations.

Montpelier Train Station also houses In the Time of Segregation, an exhibit depicting the lives of the local African-American community who lived in this area throughout the period of segregation when blacks and whites were required to use separate waiting rooms and ticket booths. By the end of the 1950s this was brought an end and all of these services were fully integrated.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

This heritage centre preserves the rich legacy of the African American community of Charlottesville and Albemarle County in Virginia.

The centre is located in the heart of the African American community and offers a greater appreciation and understanding of the contributions of peoples of colour locally, nationally and globally. 

Group travel organisers planning their Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area can find more information and advice at

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