Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Dr. Clara Small to discuss new book during 2nd Friday

(July 9, 2015) Former Salisbury University professor Dr. Clara Small released her third book, “Compass Points: Profiles and Biographies of African-Americans from the Delmarva Peninsula, Vol. I,” in November of last year.
Small, who taught African-American history at SU for nearly four decades, is the featured artist at Salt Water Media during Berlin’s monthly 2nd Friday art stroll on July 10.
Speaking to the Gazette on Tuesday, the Plymouth, N.C. native said the idea for the book came after a particularly unpleasant tangle with a former student.
“On a Friday afternoon, while teaching African-American history, a student in the class said, ‘Well, blacks have never done anything in this country, and definitely not on the Eastern Shore,’” Small said. “I said, ‘repeat that.’ And he did.”
Small, needless to say, was not happy during that tense moment.
“Steam is coming out of everywhere, and I said to myself I have to dismiss class or I knew I was going to go to jail for killing this kid,” she said. “So I gave them an assignment and I went home and sat in the middle of my bed all Friday night and part of Saturday morning, and I typed 32 pages.”
On Sunday morning, Small went to campus to run off copies for her class and happened to run into Dr. William C. Merwin, who, at the time, was president of the university.
“He asked what I was doing on there on the weekend, and I told him I had to get this ready for Monday’s class, and I told him what happened [on Friday],” she said.
Intrigued, and more than a little steamed himself, Merwin asked for a copy. During the following week he contacted public relations at SU and asked the staff to send copies to “every school in the tri-county area,” according to Small.
The effect, Small said, was that “people started to become a little bit interested in their local history.”
“The idea was to whet their appetite, and primarily for the students in that class to understand that individuals such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were very, very close by,” she said. “The problem was they thought, ‘Oh that’s in the Deep South.’”
Asking her class where they came from, Small said, would elicit a bevy of replies such as, “Baltimore, D.C., Temple Hill.”
“I said, ‘Well, how did you get to Salisbury? You passed by where they existed. You didn’t see any signs in the road? How about Cambridge? How about Easton?’ Oh, my lord.”
The hapless student, Small said, never quite got it.
“I laugh about it now,” she said. “But they didn’t know. They were uniformed.”
After retiring in May 2013, Small finished the book, which covers 56 African-Americans who made contributions in and around the Delmarva Peninsula.
“When you’re teaching full time [writing a book] often doesn’t work,” she said. “I was teaching other classes and serving on so many commissions and different committees. But, when I retired I just went for it.”
Today, she said, she’s halfway through writing volume two of what looks to be a series.
“I want everybody to have an idea of the struggles of individuals who made an impact on the Eastern Shore, some who were born and raised here and stayed, some who went to other areas and made an impact, and others who came here and they made contributions here,” she said. “The impact was not just locally or statewide or regionally, but nationally as well as internationally.”
Berlin’s 2nd Friday festivities will feature more than a dozen different art displays in shops throughout the downtown area, along with sales and specials in area restaurants from 5-8 p.m.
For more information, visit or search “Berlin MD Arts & Entertainment” on Facebook.