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The Ground Beneath Us


Neil King, Jr.

From The Talbot Spy

Much of the past year I have spent in a converted barn around the bend from a muddy field where momentous things happened a long time ago. That forgotten field between St. Michaels and Tilghman Island is as interwoven with our nation’s pained past as a disputed statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands blocks from my house in Washington DC. Those two, the field on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the statue in Washington, are themselves potently tied to one another.


The statue—of a benevolent Lincoln holding his hand above a kneeling enslaved Black man that he has just freed—attempts to capture in bronze a pivotal moment in our history. The patch of ground—where a 16-year-old Frederick Douglass famously beat down his white overseer—remains just that: A long rectangle of soggy corn stalks girded on one side by telephone wires and on the other by the eroding shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay.

Read the landmark essay that will make you rethink the current debate over statues, and other things, as well, in The Talbot Spy.