Resources more likely to go to rich newcomers than long-established poorer enclaves
Exclusivity defines the Maryland shoreline: large homes with gazebos and private beaches, quaint towns chockablock with designer handbags and chic dresses, restaurants serving $25 crab cake dinners.
Less likely to be seen are the tight-knit African-American communities that have endured since slavery. They are off the main roads. They are lower to the ground — often on land they got because few others wanted it. Vulnerable to both rising waters and declining populations, they struggle for resources to fix roads, rebuild homes, repair churches and protect what remains.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, the most-desired settlement areas were away from the Chesapeake Bay’s edge. Low-lying land close to the water was often unsanitary, its adjacent marsh filled with mosquitoes and its soil less hospitable for farming. The land flooded; its residents occasionally became sick from drinking polluted well water or from contact with sewage and industrial waste. A water view from on high was fine, as long as residents didn’t get too close.
Because no one wanted that land, it went to African-Americans, who farmed its banks and plied its waters for fish, crabs and oysters. They could buy it cheaply — and they did — building country churches and seafood plants that still exist today.