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Time Travel

Walk into black history at Back Creek Books

Find the right place in historic Annapolis, and you can walk right into history.
    Back Creek Books, between State and Church circles on Main Street, is such a place.
    Old books find a home in Rock Toews’ store, which cherishes its own oldness. You might have found it not much different in essentials had you walked in a century ago, when it was George Jones Book Shop. That’s the early part of the era chronicled in a book resting on a chair in Back Creek’s western display window, given over this month to a display of historic books on black history.
    Taking place of prominence on the chair, Philip L. Brown’s The Other Annapolis is another porthole into history. Achiever, activist, author and teacher, Brown wrote The Other Annapolis in 1994 to “chronicle and create a picture … of what life was like for the colored segment of the population in racially segregated Annapolis during the first half of the 20th century.” Brown wrote what he knew, adding facets from the stories and photographs of many others who shared his experience.
    He succeeded. Paging through his book feels as intimate as looking through a photo album with narration adding story to the images. Since Brown’s death in his 100th year in 2009, his son Errol has reissued the book in a third printing Memorial Edition. Step into Back Creek Books, pick it up and begin that journey.
    But first, spend a moment browsing that display window of other old books on black history. Some are local, but Toews’ point of selection is broader: “historic, rare and antiquarian books of lasting interest in all fields.” Among these are 28 Years a Slave, which is not the source of the current movie; and Scouring of a Race, published at the turn of the 20th century by a Baptist minister in D.C. They Knew Lincoln has even closer ties. Its author, dentist John E. Washington, was born in Annapolis but grew up and practiced in D.C., where he put together a book of recollections of black people who had personally known the Lincolns. Dr. Washington also owned a second home in Highland Beach.
    If you like what you see, plan a return visit to see a soon-to-be-hung display of original photos featured in The Other Annapolis. Check with Toews on when.

Back Creek Books: 194 Main St., Annapolis: 410-626-1363; www.backcreekbooks.com
Read more about books on black history in Ben Miller’s 2009 story: http://bayweekly.com/old-site/year09/issue_8/lead_1.html.