The Search for Frederick Douglass’s Birthplace
Markers in the Landcape

Frederick Douglass told a Baltimore audience  in 1877:

“I am an Eastern Shoreman, with all that name implies. Eastern Shore corn and Eastern Shore pork gave me my muscle. I love Maryland and the Eastern Shore!”

Douglass also wrote:

I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland.  (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, ch. 1)

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In Talbot county, Eastern Shore, Maryland, near Easton, the county seat of that county, there is a small district of country, thinly populated, and remarkable for nothing that I know of more than for the worn-out, sandy, desert-like appearance of its soil, the general dilapidation of its farms and fences, the indigent and spiritless character of its inhabitants, and the prevalence of ague and fever. The name of this singularly unpromising and truly famine stricken district is Tuckahoe…   (My Bondage and My Freedom, ch. 1)

If you lived today near Frederick Douglass’s birthplace, you’d have a Cordova, Maryland, mailing address.  And your kids might attend Chapel District Middle School.  But you’d never say, “I’m from Tuckahoe.”

In Douglass’s time, “Tuckahoe” might refer to all of Talbot County near the west bank of the Tuckahoe River.  But this reference alone was too vague for historians to pinpoint the birthplace.  So, in the 20th century, the Maryland Historical Society placed its historic marker honoring Douglass at the south end of the bridge that carries MD 328 over the Tuckahoe, seven miles from the actual site.