Historic African American Community ‘Gibson Grove: Gone But Not Forgotten’ Will Be Featured in Montgomery History Free Online Presentation That Will Be Available Starting Monday, Nov. 21

by Patrick Herron

Per Montgomery County: The historic African American community of Gibson Grove no longer exists in Montgomery County, but its spirit lives on. The Montgomery History free online presentation, “Gibson Grove: Gone But Not Forgotten” will tell the story of the community and its people. The presentation will be available starting Monday, Nov. 21, and can be accessed for one week.

Alexandra Jones will lead the presentation about the community in what is now known as the Cabin John area. Gibson Grove was built on self-reliance, education, faith and mutual support in a time when African Americans were discriminated against and prevented from attending schools, obtaining insurance and being buried in the same cemeteries as their European American counterparts. The community has all but faded in the memories of many in Montgomery County, and today the few remaining historical sites are being threatened by the expansion of the Beltway. However, a new community of advocates has stepped in to save these sacred spots. This talk will explore the history of Gibson Grove and the actions being taken to save the two sites associated with this community.

According to a story about Gibson Grove in Maryland Matters in 2021 by Chandler Louden, after the end of the Reconstruction (1865–1877), the rise of segregation led to a large disparity between white and Black communities. Many Black communities did not have adequate infrastructure for things such as schools and cemeteries. To address their needs, they began forming benevolent societies and fraternal organizations funded by member dues. The societies acted as insurance agencies providing payments to families during illness and upon the death of loved ones and provided for burials. The societies were a source of social support and community cohesion.

In 1880, the Gibson Grove community in Cabin John was established by Sarah and Robert Gibson, who had previously been enslaved on a plantation in Virginia. They bought property, but were forced to live on the outskirts of White society. In 1882, they helped establish the first schools for Black children in the area. To learn more about Gibson Grove and its people, view the Montgomery History presentation by registering at https://montgomeryhistory.org/mhconnected/watch/.


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