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Celebrate, Educate & Engage

AARCH Society Executive Director, Dr. Gooch, is Committed to Uncovering and Interpreting the Complexities of Our Shared History

Article by Arliss Veldhuizen

Photography by Lytebox Photography

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

In Frederick County, we have the privilege of living in a gold mine of American history. With an abundance of monuments, guided walking tours, historical structures, events and more, opportunities to explore the rich history of our county abound—and thanks to the tireless work of the AARCH Society, which includes the African American history of Frederick, too. The faithful members of this non-profit organization have been working to uncover the stories and history of our African American forerunners in Frederick County for more than twenty years. Today, their commitment remains the same—and they’re only getting bolder.

Since its incorporation in 2009, The African American Resources Cultural and Heritage (AARCH) Society has been committed to a unique and important mission: to uncover and shine a light on the history of Frederick County African Americans—celebrating the culture and contributions of generations past (some of whom are still present) and educating today’s community. They do this by collecting and preserving artifacts, researching and interpreting the stories behind them and sharing them with the public. The members of the AARCH Society have been faithful to share these stories with the Frederick community in engaging and creative ways—through historic walking tours, documentaries, family history fairs and more. Now, as they look to the upcoming opening of their African American Heritage Center, they’ve hired their inaugural Executive Director, Dr. Cheryl Renée Gooch, Ph.D.—and it’s a match made in heaven.

Having authored scholarly articles and two books, Dr. Gooch comes to AARCH with almost three decades of experience in academia as an educator and an academic administrator. As a result, she is extensively knowledgeable of African American history—and yet that’s not all that makes her a perfect fit as AARCH’s Executive Director. 

“I’m a consciously historical educator who lives in the world of history, and I am insatiably curious about uncovering lost and obscured history that addresses or involves the African American experience, which is broad, diverse and complex,” she shared. 

And so, while her years of experience play a part in her added value to the organization, it is also her passion to unearth and understand these untold narratives that make her an essential piece of the puzzle—and ‘passion’ is no understatement.

“...it’s a love of work that drives me,” she shared. “It indeed is a blessing to pursue what I am passionate about in a way that makes a meaningful difference.”

Understandably, many are thrilled at Dr. Gooch’s onboarding—including AARCH Society’s President, Protean Gibril.

“Dr. Gooch brings a whole new level of educational and cultural experience to our project,” Protean explained. “Just with her being on board the story has gotten richer...Her input has made us think a little bit broader than what we were thinking.”

This experience and input, combined with her passion, is precisely what makes Dr. Gooch well-suited for the task of spearheading the establishment of The African American Heritage Center in 2024.

“The notion of accessing American history through an African American lens is at the core of establishing the Heritage Center,” Dr. Gooch explained. And so, situated between All Saints Street and Carroll Street in Frederick’s historic downtown, the Center will be home to a wide array of exhibitions—all of which will reflect AARCH’s mission to uncover those stories of Frederick County’s African Americans that have been forgotten or obscured. Inside, visitors will be met by engaging rotating exhibitions, but there will also be a permanent core exhibit, its theme being “Our Journey, Our Stories”.

“...it’s intended to chronicle, interpret and educate our diverse public about our shared history as Marylanders, as Americans, as experienced here in Frederick County…” Dr. Gooch explained. This is exactly what the core exhibit will be designed to offer visitors; and as we engage with the Heritage Center and other work AARCH is doing, we can join them in honoring those who came before us while educating ourselves and others who are here today.

“At the end of the day, we all benefit from having a more informed, complex understanding of our shared history,” shared Dr. Gooch. 


This is something that she and the longstanding members of the AARCH Society agree on, and they’ve been doing this hard work in their own lanes for a long time. Today, we get to benefit from their merging as they take this incredible non-profit organization to new heights in service of our community.

AARCHSociety.org

Artifacts

We explored behind-the-scenes with Dr. Gooch to explore some of the artifacts that are currently stored at the Federated Charities Building until they find their new home at the African American Heritage Center when it opens in 2024.
 

Top Left: Dr. Gooch presents a handmade doll that was donated by Earlene Thornton as part of a larger collection of dolls. 

Top Right: A brilliant portrait of the late David V. Key (1942–2021), the transformative former President of the African American Resources Cultural and Heritage Society.

Bottom Left: A copy of the April 28th, 1906, edition of The Frederick Hornet, the first black-published newspaper, which was founded by Edward E. Mitchell and printed on All Saints Street. 

Bottom Right: A voting box from Pythian Castle on All Saints Street–created by Ulysses Grant Bourne–which was used for a variety of community gatherings. 

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