North Brentwood, 1st African American town incorporated in Prince George’s Co., celebrates its 100th anniversary

North Brentwood Parade
North Brentwood, Maryland, Mayor Petrella Robinson leads the city’s centennial parade on June 15, 2024. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
North Brentwood Parade
Mayor Petrella Robinson rides on a motorcycle. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
The North Brentwood, Maryland, parade included entertainers. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
North Brentwood Parade
A number of participants took part in the parade. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
North Brentwood Parade
New Saint James Pentecostal Church took part in the parade. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
North Brentwood Parade
North Brentwood Parade
North Brentwood Parade
North Brentwood Parade

North Brentwood, Maryland, a Prince George’s County community that has the distinction of being the first incorporated African American municipality in Prince George’s County, celebrated its centennial Saturday.

North Brentwood’s mayor Petrella Robinson said the town was only the second incorporated Black community in the state of Maryland.

“We celebrate every year because we have a deep, rich history here: first with African Americans who settled here … and what we have today is a livable community,” Robinson told WTOP. “So we celebrate our ancestors. We celebrate 100 years of incorporation.”

Robinson spoke with WTOP before slipping into the passenger seat of a shiny black Harley-Davidson trike motorcycle for her place in the parade, which wound its way through North Brentwood before ending in the park with games, vendor booths and a food truck.

The small town on the banks of the northwest branch of the Anacostia River is sandwiched between Mount Rainier and Hyattsville on U.S. Route 1.

Civil War Army Capt. Wallace Bartlett, who commanded a regiment of Black troops in the Civil War, sold land to some of those veterans who established what was first called Randallstown, Maryland.

“He had a Black troop and he had a white troop. He gave this land to the Black troop … because it was flood-prone. It was called the Bottom. Now Brentwood … another separate entity … the white soldiers (were) given the town of Brentwood on the higher elevation,” Robinson said.

During the era of segregation, the town remained a thriving African American community.

“They had their grocery store, they had the police department. They had the church: First Baptist of North Brentwood,” said Dianne Braddock, president of the North Brentwood Historical Society.

The little town also hosted some of the greats of the jazz age, including Pearl Bailey and Duke Ellington who were known to find their way to Sis’s Tavern following performances in the District.

“They would perform in D.C. and then you know, they have these after-hours clubs, they will come down here, down Route one to Sis’s Tavern … it was a regular nightclub, food and drinks,” Braddock said.

Big storms occasionally brought flooding to the town, which is now protected by a levee.

The slogan for this year is “We Endure,” Braddock said.

“We endure because we have floods. And that levee right there? They fought for that levee because there wasn’t a levee there when I was a little girl and the water would just come into our homes,” Robinson said.

The town is also proud of its history of entrepreneurship, with up to 100 businesses operating in the small town over the years.

“One of those entrepreneurs was my great aunt, who was a beautician and ran her business out of the home that I’m still in,” Robinson said.

Crime is low in North Brentwood, and the community is growing more diverse with Hispanic and white families moving in. At Saturday’s parade and celebration, folks expressed joy with their historic community and its enduring vibrancy.

“We raised the children in our church school program, to go out and serve the community. And I think that keeps the community thriving,” Braddock said.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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