Remembering Sparrows Point

Bonnie Bowen, American Studies ’14, is a student in ‘Mill Stories,’ a UMBC American Studies course

Bonnie BowenSparrows Point Steel Mill helped shape the lives of hundreds of thousands of steelworkers and associated personnel for well over a century. The Mill has had a large role in my life as my husband worked there until he was laid off in 2012, but my story is not unique—it is one of many. In the Baltimore region, it is often hard not to find a family whose life had not been touched in someway by Sparrows Point Steel Mill. The dismantling of the Mill is well on its way and will continue. Soon, all of the buildings will all be torn down, or imploded, leaving little tangible remains to remember the community and culture of the people whose lives were greatly impacted by it.

The BreakingGround initiative at UMBC has provided the opportunity for faculty and students to supports former steelworkers and associated personal by encouraging them to share their stories and by providing them an opportunity to have their stories documented, preserved, and shared with others long after the Mill Storiesbuildings have been demolished for scrap.

Please join us Thursday, April 10th at 7:30pm for Remembering Sparrows Point. The event is FREE to all and is being held at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson (3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224). To keep the memory alive, Creative Alliance will screen Mill Stories and Life After Steel, present a reading by Deborah Rudacille, author of Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town, and engage the audience in a discussion with former Sparrows Point workers Chris MacLarion, Addie Loretta Houston-Smith, and LeRoy McClelland, Sr.

  • Introductions by Marc Steiner
  • Mill Stories –Bill Shewbridge and Michelle Stefano, UMBC
  • Life After Steel – Eric Kruszewski
  • Roots of Steel, a reading by Deborah Rudacille, UMBC
  • Discussion moderated by Bill Barry (former Director of Labor Studies, CCBC Dundalk)

Contact the author, Bonnie Bowen, at

Remembering Sparrows Point (4/10)

Remembering flyer-page-001 The Creative Alliance and BreakingGround will host Remembering Sparrows Point on Thursday, April 10 at 7.30. The event will be held at Creative Alliance at the Patterson.

The evening will feature short films, a reading and discussion about the Sparrows Point Steel Mill.

See flyer for more information.

What Remains? Baltimore Neighborhoods in Transition (9/19)

Michelle Stefano, folklorist in residence for UMBC’s department of American studies, coordinates the Maryland Traditions program for the Maryland State Arts Council.

Michelle StefanoWhat are the impacts of post-industrial change at the community level? Whether industrial landscapes – the temples to the long-standing and once thriving US manufacturing enterprise – are re-purposed or destroyed, what lives on in the hearts and minds of those who knew them best?

The decline, dismantling, and disappearance of the many industries across the US deeply affects the towns, cities, and regions in which they were situated and the local communities with which they were intimately related. I believe understanding the effects of these post-industrial transitions, especially with respect to the relationships between community and place in both historical and contemporary contexts, is key to ensuring economically, environmentally, and culturally sustainable futures for American communities.

Sparrows Point 3

(Photo: UMBC New Media Studio)

Nonetheless, when we hear about these stories of plants, mills and factories closing, it is often through the language of economics; statistics reflecting jobs lost, the rise in unemployment and the crumbling of local businesses tend to mask the more personal, or human, elements of such change. In this light, the panel, What Remains? Baltimore Neighborhoods in Transition (Thursday 9/19, 4:30 p.m., Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery) seeks to spotlight the stories and memories – the intangible remnants of post-industrialization – of the communities of two historically interrelated and, yet, geographically separate areas: Baybrook, a group of six ethnically and racially diverse industrial neighborhoods in the southern peninsula of Baltimore City and the Sparrows Point Steel Mill area of Dundalk, situated just across the southwestern city border in Baltimore County. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Baltimore area residents (and beyond) have been shaped by these industrial centers, and the significance of them – from the personal and shared perspectives of those who knew them best – does not disappear as quickly.

(Photo: UMBC New Media Studio)

(Photo: UMBC New Media Studio)

Panel participants are both UMBC researchers and members of the Baybrook and Sparrows Point Steel Mill communities. Deborah Rudacille (English), who grew up in Dundalk, will reflect on the changes she has seen in the Sparrows Point area, drawing also from her oral history research for the book, Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town. Steve Bradley (Visual Arts) and Nicole King (American Studies) will discuss their work in Baybrook, funded in part through the BreakingGround initiative, focusing on the mapping of places of both historical and contemporary importance, as well as the stories and memories associated with them. Bill Shewbridge (Media and Communication Studies/the New Media Studio) and I will highlight our work in the Sparrows Point area, Mill Storiesa collection of digital stories that aim to amplify the voices, experiences, and importance of the Mill to a wider public. Community members include Jason Reed, who is involved with environmental justice projects in Baybrook, and Troy Pritt and Eddie Bartee, who worked at Sparrows Point for numerous years. Eddie is a third generation Sparrows Point steelworker who grew up in the company town, which was situated in the middle of the Mill complex and was razed in the 1970s. Denise Meringolo (History), whose research has focused on community-based public history practice, particularly in Baltimore, will moderate the discussion.

Contact the author, Michele Stefano, at

Finding Their Voice: Mill Stories in the Baltimore Sun

Dinah WinnickDinah Winnick is UMBC’s senior communications manager for research.

Congratulations to UMBC’s Mill Stories team on their tremendous work documenting the history of Baltimore’s Sparrows Point Steel Mill community through the past semester. We were so proud to see their work highlighted in the powerful Baltimore Sun web feature on Sparrows Point earlier this month.

Two classes participated in the Spring 2013 collaborative project supported by BreakingGround. AMST 358 Cultural Documentation in Partnership with Communities focused on cultural research and documentation within the communities that have been shaped by the Sparrows Point Steel Mill for over a century. Students explored the ideas, techniques and ethical considerations that underpin community-based qualitative research. They became familiar with the challenges of post-industrial economic and social transition and ideas of community cohesion, sense of place and sense of belonging.

Intercultural Video ProductionStudents in MLL 495/695 Intercultural Video Production focused on creating short digital stories based on community interviews, supporting participants in telling their stories in their own words.

Students learned about diverse aspects of Sparrows Point culture and residents’ experiences, from union participation, to the intricacies of making steel and operating cranes, to experiences of segregation and gender discrimination. View the “Mill Stories” on UMBCtube to see the fruits of their labor.

Contact the author, Dinah Winnick, at

This Week: Mill Stories — Refreshments (and Laughter) Guaranteed!

Mill Stories

Cultural Documentation in Partnership with Communities

Michelle Stefano, folklorist in residence for UMBC’s department of American studies, coordinates the Maryland Traditions program for the Maryland State Arts Council.

Michelle StefanoStudents in my Cultural Documentation in Partnership with Communities course (AMST 358) are working with local residents and former steelworkers to document their varied experiences with the recently closed Sparrows Point Steel Mill in Dundalk, Maryland.

The students spent the first several weeks of the semester learning about concepts, techniques and ethical considerations in approaching qualitative research from a community-based, out-in-the-field perspective; broader notions of community cohesion, senses of place and belonging; and the realities of post-industrial economic and social transition. Now they are also becoming key players in the promotion of the mill’s significance to a wider public by helping to safeguard its living heritage: the memories and stories of former and active steelworkers, as well as other mill personnel and community members.

In this video, UMBC New Media Studio director Bill Shewbridge and I share the ideas and experiences at the heart of this collaboration.

Contact the author, Michelle Stefano, at

BreakingGround Course is Front-Page News

David Hoffman is UMBC’s assistant director of student life for civic agency.

David HoffmanToday’s Baltimore Sun features a front-page story about students in two UMBC courses shedding light on the human side of Baltimore’s industrial past. The students, guided by New Media Studio director Bill Shewbridge and American Studies folklorist in residence Michelle Stefano, are helping tell the stories of steelworkers from the now-defunct Baltimore Sun, 2.12.13Sparrows Point Steel Mill, which once employed thousands. The mill has been shuttered and is being sold for scrap.

The oral history project is supported by a BreakingGround course development grant. The article also describes several other BreakingGround courses and projects through which people from UMBC are solving problems and working with community partners to make innovative contributions to the common good. I’m thrilled that readers are getting this taste of UMBC’s rich, creative and collaborative civic work.

Contact the author, David Hoffman, at