The Hosanna School is an example of an early institution that promoted civil rights. The school is in the historic Berkley region of northeastern Harford County. The area was known before the Civil War as a stop on the underground railroad. Berkley – like Havre de Grace- was an important way point for escaped peoples on the Susquehanna River, often supported by abolitionist Quakers who migrated to the area in the 18th Century.
A free African American man named Cupid Paca acquired the property in 1822 and eventually the property included the Hosanna African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. As the Civil War ended, the Hosanna AME church operated a brief school. In 1867, work began on a new Freedman’s Bureau school that soon opened for freed peoples of all ages, like others across former slave states. Harford County assumed control of the school in 1879, and it operated as a school for students of color until 1945. Soon after, a non-profit foundation emerged which eventually restored the school building and re-opened it as a public history site to achieve and promote Harford County history “through the lens of the African American experience within national contexts.”
Although, the Hosanna School closed a decade before school desegregation began in Harford County, it retains importance as an important site that nurtured a civil rights consciousness from its beginning. There were actually three Freedman’s Bureau schools that operated in Harford including the McComas Institute. The McComas Institute is also owned and operated as a historical site by the Hosanna Community House, the foundation which operates the Hosanna School Museum. Later, these schools were joined by others such as the Havre de Grace and Bel Air Colored schools and many others scattered around rural parts of the county. These schools demonstrated the emergence of a persistent educational spirit which contributed to community strength and civil rights into the 1960s.
The restored Hosanna School is currently the site of the Hosanna School Museum. The museum and foundation are a powerful testament to the vibrant, energetic and impactful African American history community of Harford County, Maryland.