Historical Marker Commemorating 1938 Crab Pickers Strike Unveiled by MDOT


Image courtesy MDOT

A historical marker commemorating the 1938 Crab Pickers Strike was unveiled Friday along Maryland 413 near Crisfield. The marker remembers the 600 crab pickers – mostly African American women – who, on April 6 of 1938, went on strike from Crisfield’s packing houses to protest wage cuts and to demand recognition of their union. The women persevered for five weeks – in spite of violence experienced by the union organizer and strike leaders. The marker unveiling was celebrated by the Holy Pickers Union Center and Shiloh United Methodist Church.

Additional information from MDOT:

“I’m honored to join the celebration for this new marker for the 1938 Crab Pickers Strike,” Assistant Secretary Tony Bridges said. “Maryland’s roadside historical marker program has been informing travelers about our shared history for more than 90 years, and the struggle these brave women faced and their valuable contributions to their communities and the state’s seafood economy is an important element of that history.”

The marker unveiling date and location are significant. Eighty-six years ago today, the walkout ended when packinghouse owners signed an agreement restoring the women’s pay rates that had been reduced to $.05 per gallon of crabmeat before the strike to $.35 per gallon and recognized the cannery union. Shiloh United Methodist Church served as a meeting place and safe haven for the strikers.

“This historical marker is a tribute to the legacy of the African women who were the backbone to the economy and seafood industry in Crisfield,” said the Reverend Emanuel Johnson, pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church.

Holy Pickers Union Center, a group of active and retired crab pickers, along with Shiloh United Methodist Church, nominated the site to the Maryland Roadside Historical Marker program, which educates the public on Maryland history. The Maryland Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Maryland Historical Trust, manages the program.

Maryland Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Transportation Equity and Engagement Tony Bridges attended Friday’s ceremony and spoke on the courage of the women and the historic place they have in the state’s history.

The Office of Cultural Resources of the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Maryland State Highway Administration and Somerset County officials also joined the unveiling.

The new roadside marker is part of the effort of the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Historical Trust to increase the number of markers that highlight the state’s untold stories. Click here for more information on the Maryland Roadside Historical Marker program, including how to nominate a marker. Click here to search current markers.