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Concert raises funds for Black Heritage Museum in Hagerstown

October 20, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown is thousands of dollars closer to establishing a permanent home for a collection of black history artifacts after the success of Sunday's "Evening of Jazz" at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, a fundraiser for The Doleman Black Heritage Museum.

About 150 people turned out to support the museum and enjoy the music of jazz keyboardist Marcus Johnson, including numerous state and local officials. Tickets to the benefit cost $50.

"This is a wonderful night in the life of this community, and I'm talking about the overall community," said State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who is sponsoring a bond bill to provide a state grant to the museum. "When we forget our past, we have no idea where we're going in the future."

The Doleman collection was built over many years by former Hagerstown resident Marguerite Doleman and includes photos, bills of slave sales, quilts made by slaves to commemorate their freedom, and other artifacts bought or donated from local families. Since Doleman died in 2000, public access to the collection has been limited and family members have been working with local officials to open a museum to house the collection in Hagerstown.

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Doleman's son, Charles Doleman, said the concert was the first of many fundraisers that will be necessary to provide the matching dollars required to accept a state grant. The museum board's goal is to raise $100,000, he said.

Before Sunday's concert, Del. JoAnne C. Benson, D-Prince George's, who grew up in Hagerstown, spoke passionately about the need for the museum and for continued public support. Benson has been a major player in seeking state funds for the project.

"This is the first time that I can remember that we have had this kind of gathering to celebrate something that's going to happen in the African-American community," Benson said.

Benson said she envisions children from all over Maryland traveling to Hagerstown to view the collection.

"The way to destroy a race of people is to deprive them of their history and their culture," she said. "This museum is a step back in the right direction, so that not only will our children be able to have appreciation, but all children."

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