“I’m visiting my cousins from the south,” as my cousin Tim from Massachusetts referred to my brothers and I on a phonecall. “Y’all’s a bunch of Yankees,” said a Florida man my friends and I encountered in a town near Lake Worth, FL. When our Northern neighbors call us Southern and when our Southern neighbors call us Yankees, what do we as Marylanders consider ourselves? It really depends on what region and how many generations back one’s family goes in the state because various responses will happen based upon who is asked. So to try and settle the debate, let’s look at some relevant facts:
*Maryland is below the Mason-Dixon line
*Along the east coast, Maryland is north of five states and south of nine
* Maryland is considered part of the Mid-Atlantic region which also includes VA, DC, WV, PA and DE and in more recent times has been included as part of the Northeast
* Though a small state, MD does have various regions including mountains in the western part of the state, flat farm land in the southern and eastern regions as well as a beach on the eastern shore. Due to these differences the climate will vary but in the geographic center, Prince George’s County, the summers are hot and humid and the winters can get into the 20s at night, sometimes lower and sometimes with snow and/or occasional blizzards.
A Bit of History
* Part of the original 13 Colonies, it was founded in 1633 by Lord Baltimore and named for Queen Henrietta Maria of the UK
*Its major industry came from shipbuilding/ ironworks and agriculture including tobacco, corn, indigo, rice and wheat
* Maryland was nicknamed the Free State as a place where Catholics could leave New England and openly practice their religion.
* It is historically considered a Southern state whose cash crop was tobacco. The state was a plantation economy largely reliant on the labor of enslaved people and indentured servants. Harriet Tubman, from Dorcester County, MD guided many slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad network.
*During the Civil War, a major reason Maryland did not secede was based upon President Lincoln declaring martial law on the state in 1861. With Virginia already part of the Confederacy, Lincoln could not risk having the capital of the Union surrounded completely by Confederate states. That being said, there were many Union supporters in the state and MD was considered part of the Union in the War Between the States.
Present Day Culture
Currently, the state is comprised of people from various areas who have come to call Maryland home. In fact, my brothers and I are the first Maryland-born members of our family. In the face of the economic crisis, the Washington, D.C. area was deemed one of the most recession proof in the nation. Montgomery County, just outside of D.C., includes cities such as Rockville, Bethesda and Silver Spring, all of which have a high concentration of newer residents. This part of the state is also considered politically a more liberal region and may relate to the many government workers who arrived from the North, typically associated with more ‘blue’ states. Maryland itself is considered a blue state. There are also high Democrat populations in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. If you go to the more rural areas of Southern MD and the Eastern Shore, where it is more likely that people have been there for generations, there is more of a Republican leaning. But can politics alone define if Maryland is Northern or Southern?
Maybe other, lighter issues need to be considered. Many restaurants do not offer sweet tea, and the response ‘We have sugar on the table’ to put in cold tea just won’t cut it. However, many foods considered traditionally Southern are also part of the culinary offerings of Maryland. Fried chicken, corn bread, greens, veggies fresh from the garden, and seafood seasoned with Old Bay (the seasoning which was invented in Maryland) are all common at many tables throughout the state.
Because the regions in Maryland are so different, it is hard to speak for all of the state, but having grown up in the Southern MD/DC Metro area and living briefly on the Eastern Shore and Baltimore, I can relate my experiences best to these places. Many consider there to be an overall rude attitude in the city areas but I can say in SoMD and small towns on the Eastern Shore there is a more hospitable and laid back vibe among most of the people I have encountered. Plenty of people from P.G. County and all points south say “y’all” and much of the vernacular architecture (i.e. tobacco barns) reflects a more Southern style. One is just as likely to see Rebel Flags displayed in Southern MD as they are anywhere in the Deep South. Not condoning this practice, just noting as an observation.
The D.C. area definitely does have a more Northern vibe though. So for me to answer this question I think it is that Maryland has influences from both. Sprawl from D.C. to the suburbs is making Maryland as a whole seem more of a Northern state as an increasing number of people relocate here for jobs, but in the areas unscathed by the sprawl, we can also get a glimpse of the rural and the Southern roots of this state. No place is perfect, but maybe Maryland as a whole has just the right balance of both.
At this point you may be thinking, “why does this even matter?” and maybe many do not think on this as much as I have but with my background in historical research and reading about times when MD was considered part of the South, it got me thinking. And talking amongst friends brings so many differing opinions based on what part of the state they hail from. Never having lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I don’t have a lot of cultural reference points to go by, so I am just going on what I myself have lived. This isn’t meant to glorify or talk bad about either side, but being on the border of two regions, it’s inevitable that there will be influences of both. The local characteristics that create a sense of place make people feel comfortable calling a place home, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.
I want to hear from you, especially Marylanders about what you think and why so go to the comments section and share your thoughts!