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Community loses force for black history

November 13, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Community loses force for black history



For more than a quarter of a century, Marguerite Doleman channeled her time, energy and a fierce pride in her heritage into preserving Washington County's black history.

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Doleman, who died Saturday just weeks before her 80th birthday, lived long enough to see her collection of artifacts and history grow and enrich a new generation of young people.

Stan Brown, vice president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care Inc., said he can still remember seeing Doleman's collection for the first time.

"I was really impressed with what she was trying to do," said Brown.

"She was like the unofficial designated black historian for Washington County," he said.

"Marguerite was an unassuming person ... a woman of gentle spirit," said Fred Otto, executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging.

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Otto said Doleman's effort to participate in the civic life of her community was special because of her special gifts of the history of the black community.

Before 1975, Doleman began collecting anything she could concerning black history in Hagerstown and Washington County.

At first, the collection fit on her dining room table. Soon, it overflowed into other areas of her Locust Street home and finally gained a permanent home in her basement.

Over the years, more than 700 people have visited her home to view her collection.

She amassed more than 400 books about black history and local records such as black census records for Hagerstown from 1860 and 1870 and bills of sale for slaves.

"Her recollection and preservation of history was unparalleled," said former Washington County Commissioner Ronald Bowers. "She had an amazing attention to details and so many documents to support her work."

Bowers recalled an effort in 1987 to bring Doleman's invaluable collection under the protective umbrella of the Washington County Historical Society.

While that effort failed then, Bowers said another attempt should be mounted so Doleman's work can be viewed by generations to come.

Doleman was honored in 1992 by the American Association for Retired Persons for her contributions to Hagerstown.

At a ceremony honoring her that year, Doleman said her efforts were for future generations.

"Our people should be proud of our history," Doleman said in 1992.

In the early 1990s, Doleman wrote a book on the history of African Americans in Washington County called "We The Blacks of Washington County."

Some of that history detailed the Williams family that once owned the land where Fort Frederick stands, according to Carolyn Brooks, HotSpot coordinator.

"When I began researching the history of my family, the Williams family, I went to Marguerite because she had more information than I did," Brooks said.

The larger picture of Doleman's contribution was even more special to Brooks who works closely with young people in the community.

"Marguerite instilled such pride in the school children when she visited," Brooks said. "What she did was a labor of love."

Doleman is survived by her husband Charles, daughter Rosemary, son Charles, and a foster son, Michael Adams. She had two grandchildren and one great grandchild.

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