“...breakfasted next morning at Bladensbgh. with an old black woman who keeps the best house in the town and calls herself Mrs. Margaret Adams”
Thomas Lee Shippen, September 15, 1790.
The story of Margaret Adams is among the most tantalizing for the questions it raises about African American life in Bladensburg. The documentary record shows that someone named Margaret Adams:
The personality of Margaret (Peggy) Adams survives in contemporary descriptions of her stubborn refusal to sell her land and her perseverance in the face of vandalism by townspeople jealous of her success. She also must have been an accomplished cook, since Charles Willson Peale preserved her recipe for pickled sturgeon in his diary after he stayed in her tavern in 1789.
Margaret Adams was successful because the post-Revolutionary era in Bladensburg, like the rest of the county, was a time of fluidity. Some people on the margins of society benefited during this brief window of opportunity. Her story is evidence that a few African Americans could prosper. However, the fate of most blacks near Bladensburg at this time remained the crushing anonymity of slavery.