The Brightside: History of Dennis F. Groce
CAROLINE COUNTY, Md. – It’s well known that the Eastern Shore is packed with history dating back decades, even centuries, but the story of one man from Caroline County has often gone untold. That is until now, as three historians have worked to uncover his name and his story.
“I kind of stumbled into the records of Mr. Dennis Groce, attending and graduating from Howard University’s preparatory department in 1889,” John Muller, a co-founder of Lost History Associates, said.
Dennis Groce – you may have never heard that name before, but Muller and other historians are trying to change that. That’s because Groce made history, becoming the first graduate of Howard University from Caroline County in the late 1800s.
“We all know about Harriet Tubman, but we don’t know about these kind of small, hyper localized characters who enriched the legacy of not just Black people in Caroline County,” Justin McNeil, the other co-founder of the organization, said.
The Lost History Associates is a group that has dug into the history of Mr. Groce and his contributions to the Mid-Shore.
“Dennis F. Groce was from a prominent family in Caroline County, freed before the Civil War, he was educated in Caroline County, he was a teacher in the Caroline County colored schools system before going to Howard University,” Muller said.
Since learning more about his history the two of them and another local historian say they’ve found the perfect way to honor Groce’s legacy.
“It just so happens there is a new elementary school opening in Greensboro,” Chad Dean, a local historian, said. “I can think of no better way to honor Mr. Groce than to call it the Dennis F. Groce Greensboro Elementary School.”
But perhaps the most interesting part of their research has led them to Groce’s living relatives today, including Charlene Gould, who says she didn’t even know about his history before Muller and McNeil uncovered Groce’s story. But now knowing what her late relative accomplished over a century ago, Gould says it’s a legacy she’s proud to be a part of.
“The pride and the legacy that there’s a different narrative being told that speaks to what you can accomplish, and when there’s so many odds against you, that you can achieve,” she said.