Invisible Montgomery is a space for stories about Montgomery County, Maryland’s, communities of color. It is based in Silver Spring and many of the stories here will be about Silver Spring and its immediate area.
Silver Spring emerged as a sundown suburb in the first half of the twentieth century. Racial restrictive covenants and Jim Crow segregation prevented African Americans from living, shopping, worshipping, and playing in the unincorporated Montgomery County Community.
Most histories and historic preservation documents about Silver Spring omit the roles segregation and African Americans played in the community’s development. For example, the Silver Spring central business district was documented in a 2002 historic resources survey. The study documented 205 properties and it included a historic context developed to evaluate those properties under the National Register of Historic Places Criteria for Evaluation. The words “African American” and “black” appeared nowhere in the report.
Popular histories of Silver Spring published after the turn of the 21st century likewise omit African Americans from their narratives. A 2006 University of Maryland doctoral dissertation found a deep divide between historic preservation efforts in Silver Spring and the area’s African American residents.
As Silver Spring undergoes rapid redevelopment and the cultural landscape changes, the popular histories and historic preservation documents have become fixed as the authoritative sources on Silver Spring’s history. It’s a history that Bruce Johansen wrote in his dissertation, that “is frequently at odds with the community’s history remembered by older African American residents.”
In addition to the pervasive nostalgic version of Silver Spring history, redevelopment activities have affected properties associated with Silver Spring’s African American history and civil rights history. In the 1960s, there were substantial civil rights actions in Silver Spring that garnered national attention. Yet, these events and the people associated with them remain essentially invisible in the published historical record.
This project highlights the spaces and stories associated with African American history in Montgomery County and raises community awareness of them.
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