Press Releases

Hosanna School Museum Holds Juneteenth Celebration.

June 17 event is part of the museum’s 150th anniversary festivities.

[Darlington, Md., April 26, 2017]  —  As part of its 150th anniversary, Hosanna School Museum will hold a Juneteenth celebration festival on Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the museum, 2424 Castleton Road in Darlington. The festival is open to the public and free of charge.

Juneteenth is a nationally recognized day that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and celebrates African American history and culture.

Hosanna’s Juneteenth celebration will feature re-enactors, living history presentations, lectures, craft vendors, special activities for children, food trucks, a gift shop and more. Hosanna is partnering on the celebration with the Iota Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., which has hosted Juneteenth celebrations for several years in Harford County.

At the Juneteenth celebration, living history re-enactor Brittany Martin will portray Edmonia Highgate, the first teacher at Darlington School later called Hosanna School. Highgate is a historical figure who worked alongside nationally recognized abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Jermain Loguen and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. While preparing for this living history presentation, historians and volunteers at Hosanna have discovered new information about Highgate and her role at Hosanna.

“Education and achievement in the African American community are important parts of the Juneteenth celebration,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director of Hosanna School Museum. “We welcome everyone on June 17 to help us celebrate—in grand festival style—the anniversary of the ending of slavery and commemorate Hosanna School Museum’s 150th anniversary this year. There will be activities for the entire family and a chance to enjoy our beautiful rural setting.”

Sponsors of Juneteenth include Harford County Office of Economic Development.

Hosanna School Museum was the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses in Harford County. Also known as the Darlington School or Berkley School, Hosanna was built on land owned by James Paca, the son of Cupid Paca, a free African American who bought 50 acres of land from Berkley to Darlington.

The Freedmen’s Bureau funded the construction of the two-story frame building, which was used as a school, community meeting place and church. Operation of the school was assumed by the Harford County School Commissioners in 1879. Hosanna remained active as a schoolhouse for African American children until 1945.

Three years later, in 1948, Hosanna Community House, Inc. (current owner) was formed. The school building was used as a community meeting place until the late 1950s when Hurricane Hazel sheared off the top floor. With limited funds, the board preserved what was left of the building by placing a roof on the remaining structure. After these repairs, the building was once again a community center, although one story, used primarily by the Boys Scouts.

Significant restoration of the building began in 1983, and the second floor was added in 2005, returning it to its original two-story structure. Currently it is a living schoolhouse museum, attracting visitors from all over the country. The building is also used for community meetings and events.

Community members and businesses interested in helping to preserve history and educate generations to come about the history and culture of Harford County through the lens of African Americans are encouraged to make a donation through the website at or by sending a check (made payable to Hosanna Community House, Incorporated) to P.O. Box 305, Darlington, Md. 21034.  January 13, 2017



McComas Institute Joins the Hosanna School Museum Family andweb flash section2
is Awarded a Maryland Historic Trust
Preservation Grant

Hosanna School Museum in Darlington, the first of three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses in Harford County that celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017, has acquired the historic McComas Institute and Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Joppa.

In addition, Hosanna School Museum received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust for restoration of McComas Institute and a $5,000 grant from Preservation Maryland for research about the founding of Hosanna School and McComas Institute, the first teachers and the community responsible for building the institutions.

McComas Institute and Mount Zion United Methodist Church were purchased by the board of the Hosanna School Museum (officially known as Hosanna Community House, Incorporated) at a tax sale. Without the intervention of the Hosanna board, these two historic properties in Harford County may not have been saved for preservation.

McComas Institute, built in 1867 and located on Singer Road in Joppa, was one of the first three Freedmen’s Bureau schoolhouses in Harford County. It was a school until 1939, when it was closed and used by the Mount Zion community for church and community events. McComas Institute was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It retains its wooden board ceiling and plasterboard walls with blackboards but is in need of rehabilitation, particularly on the exterior.

Little Gunpowder Improvement Association (LGIA) member Gloria Moon alerted the Hosanna board about the condition of McComas Institute and the tax sale. Subsequently, LGIA donated $1,000 toward its rehabilitation along with a $1,000 contribution from members of the Joppa community (Bradley, Howard and Johnson families).

Jay Young of Brown, Brown and Young provided pro bono legal assistance to Hosanna School Museum in acquiring McComas Institute (with the adjacent cemetery) and the neighboring Mount Zion Church.

Bernice Cottman, a former board member of the organization that once owned McComas Institute, and her sister, Joanne Holley, shared important historical information about the school with the Hosanna board.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church, built in 1865, is adjacent to McComas Institute. Founding pastor Rev. Peter Bishop and the trustees of Mount Zion partnered with George M. McComas, a Harford County abolitionist, and the Freedmen’s Bureau to build McComas Institute. George and Mary Ann Johnson provided the land, while the congregation of Mount Zion provided the labor for the construction of McComas Institute and held the initial title to the school. Church members comprised a significant portion of the school’s board until it closed in 1939.

Mount Zion was part of the Gunpowder Circuit of the all black Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, founded in 1864, which established and maintained a black governing board and black preachers and pastors.

The surviving sister church, New Beginnings Fellowship, located in Jarrettsville, and its pastor, Rev. Earnest Gayles, and congregants have been supportive of Hosanna acquiring Mount Zion.

“It is vital that the struggle endured by people of color following the Civil War remains an essential part of Harford County’s history. Hosanna has to be in the forefront to ensure that this history of how people who had nothing, for the most part, valued an education. In addition, they understood that it was important to have a spiritual component in their community,” said Jim Thornton, treasurer and special projects manager of Hosanna School Museum. “These two buildings–McComas Institute and Mount Zion–represent a part of who we are today. We must find ways to increase the top of mind awareness of these stories,” Thornton explained. “Hopefully, this awareness will appeal to donors who share a commitment to preserve and share this history.”

In addition to acquiring McComas Institute and Mount Zion United Methodist Church, Hosanna School Museum received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. The grant, awarded through the trust’s African American Heritage Preservation Program, will be used for restoration, capital improvements and a permanent interpretive exhibition for McComas Institute. Preservation Maryland’s $5,000 grant to Hosanna School Museum will be used to research groundbreaking information about teachers, community members and their roles in establishing schools for African Americans before and during the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the Reconstruction period. The information will be included in publications and exhibitions at Hosanna School Museum and McComas Institute.

“We are so grateful to the Maryland Historical Trust, Preservation Maryland and our local community for their support of our preservation efforts,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, executive director of Hosanna School Museum. “Our goal is to collect, preserve and interpret the history of Harford County through the lens of African Americans, and we invite individuals and other organizations to assist us with donations to help make that possible. Every donation makes a difference and is equally appreciated. We also encourage descendants of students and teachers to come forth to add their families’ stories to our exhibitions.”

Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 305, Darlington, Md. 21034. More information may be found at

“Notice of Public Meeting” Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture Hosanna School Museum”

For release: Nov 14, 2015,

2015 MCAAHC Hosanna School Public Notice of Meeting(1)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“Notice of Public Meeting”

Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture

Darlington, MD –On Monday December 7, 2015, Hosanna School Museum will host the Regular Meeting of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture (MCAAHC). One of the primary purposes of the meeting is to inform the community of funding opportunities for preservation projects. Founded in 1969 as the Maryland Commission on Negro History and Culture, the MCAAHC has been committed to discovering, documenting, preserving, collecting, and promoting Maryland’s African American heritage.

Through a partnership of the MCAAHC and the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), the African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) offers assistance to organizations and private citizens in their sponsorship of successful acquisition, construction, or improvement of African American heritage projects. Fiscal year 2016, the AAHPP provided 13 grants totaling $1 million to Maryland nonprofit groups, local governments, and businesses.

The goal of the AAHPP is to identify and preserve buildings, communities and sites of historical and cultural importance to the African American experience in Maryland. Last year’s grant awards ranged from $14,000 to $100,000. Some of the projects funded include: Piney Grove United Methodist Church and School House in Baltimore County received $100, 000; the Catoctin Furnace African American Cemetery in Frederick County received $87, 000; and the Frederick Douglass Square at the University of Maryland in Prince Georges County received $100,000.

“I commend the work of these individuals and organizations in their effort to preserve and showcase Maryland’s unique African American heritage and culture,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.  “The diversity of these preservation projects and their geographic distribution across our state demonstrates the significant contributions African Americans made in every corner of the state.  I applaud the hard work and dedication of the commission and the Trust in identifying these landmarks and ensuring this piece of history will be preserved for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

The mission of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture(MCAAHC) is to interpret, document, preserve, and promote Maryland’s African American heritage; to provide technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives; and to educate Maryland’s citizens and visitors about the significance of the African American experience in Maryland and the nation. MCAAHC is housed within the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.

Hosanna School Museum was a 2012 recipient of the AAHPP awarded by the MCAAHC and received $28,000. With the grant funding, Hosanna was able to purchase and install a chair lift for disabled individuals to gain easier access to the second level of the museum. Hosanna School Museum is a historic Freedmen’s Bureau School and was the first public in Harford County for African Americans. Built in 1867, it underwent complete restoration in 2005. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its main objective is to collect, document, interpret, and share the history and culture of Harford County, Maryland, and beyond through the lens of African Americans.

The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 11:00 A.M. Hosanna is located at 2424 Castleton Road, Darlington Maryland. Light refreshments will be served.

To register and for more information: Contact Mr. LeRonn Herbert at 410-216-6181 or or Charles L. Chavis, Jr., Museum Assistant at: or 410-457-4161, by Friday, December 4, 2015.