Lyttonsville community explores its roots
At celebration, exhibit, residents learn about rich history of African-American neighborhood
Charles E. Shoemaker/The Gazette
For residents of the historically black neighborhood of Lyttonsville or Linden, history can live in your backyard and emerges those who remember the past come together to share it.
To celebrate the rich history of African-American culture in Montgomery County, county historians, activists and Lyttonsville residents gathered Friday at the neighborhood's Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center to celebrate black struggles in the nation and their accomplishments in their neighborhood.
"Our family originated here. My family originated here. My history is here," said Charlotte Coffield, sister of community activist Gwendolyn Coffield, for whom the center was named.
In a community history exhibit dedicated at the community center last year, visitors could read about Samuel Lytton, a former slave who in 1853 founded the community in West Silver Spring called Lyttonsville or Linden, and about those who inhabited his neighborhood.
Coffield described the homes built by Montgomery County school students pictured in the display and the photograph of the negro league Linden Black Sox, which played in the community before desegregation.
Some residents at the gathering remembered the humble history of the community. They remember attending the community's two-room school house, which had no outhouse until integration in 1955. Desegregation would bus them to Montgomery Blair High school.
Until the 1960s, houses in the neighborhood did not have plumbing and the streets were unpaved.
"There's a common thread that goes through all of us. We give and save and do it [for our community]. Take a look at where we've come from and how much we have to be thankful for," said resident Joan Brown-Washington.
The Rev. Dr. Ella Redfield, pastor of one of the two Lyttonsville churches, said growing up in such a storied community gave her a profound sense of worth.
"Growing up here in Linden is an experience that I will always cherish, particularly since we have a black perspective," said Redfield, the guest speaker at the event. "Even with discrimination and disregard, it makes me feel good just to remember a rich history in Linden."
Redfield quoted civil rights advocate James Baldwin and described how his words resonated with her.
"Baldwin reminds his nephew of the racist world in which he was born. The negro must take the high road," she said, as a method of racial activism. "You must to do this to show yourself the good life. It will be hard but you are of from good stock. You come from a long line of great poets,'" she quoted Baldwin as saying.
Redfield said this pride is reflected in Lyttonsville residents she has seen and known.
"I remember the days here in Linden. I saw strong men that walked with dignity. Unbreakable will behind each act of courage," she said.
Residents created their own community and pride, even with segregation, freed slaves with a troubled history, and only a two-room school house, Redfield said.
"People were able to reach down and rise above to figure out a new game plan and not be stopped. I am Linden. I am who you are and we are Linden," she said.
Visitors said the event was a beautiful way to commemorate Black History Month.
"It was just wonderful," Victoria Rose said. "I've been living here for 15 years. It's a very interesting history. You can't have enough to commemorate black history."