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She cherished the home where her family fled slavery. Then a stranger bought it.

Maryland, (Qnnflash) – An African American woman, and Jungsun Kim, the owner of Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Stephanie Gilbert had prepared herself for this moment, planning what to say and writing a letter to express her feelings. She had traveled from a Philadelphia suburb with her fiancé, Steve Brangman, to meet with Kim. The reason for this meeting was deeply personal and rooted in history.

Gilbert, a former AT&T executive and co-founder of a Black-owned technology firm, was about to share a significant part of her family’s past with Kim. As they stood in the busy parking lot of the liquor store, Gilbert noticed a thin, Asian woman with shoulder-length black hair who seemed to be the person she was looking for.

Approaching Kim with a warm smile, Gilbert introduced herself and handed her a letter she had written. In the letter, Gilbert narrated the remarkable history of her ancestors, who were enslaved and worked on Richland Farm and a neighboring plantation in Clarksville for one of Maryland’s prominent families. She shared the story of her great-great-grandfather, Oliver Gilbert, who escaped via the Underground Railroad in 1848 and later returned to Maryland as a free man.

Gilbert’s letter revealed the deep connection she had established with Richland Farm, which was recently sold to Kim for $3 million by a White descendant. She expressed her desire to continue visiting the estate where her enslaved ancestors are buried and invited Kim to be a part of the healing process that African American families undertake as they seek peace with the past.

The encounter between Gilbert and Kim was a moment of vulnerability and hope. Gilbert’s passion for her family history and her plea for understanding and reconciliation hung in the balance as she awaited Kim’s response. For Gilbert, it was a chance to bridge the gap between the past and the present, to connect with someone who now held the reins of a place that held so much significance for her family.

The journey for Stephanie Gilbert began in 2010 when she stumbled upon a runaway slave ad from the Baltimore Sun. The ad, published in 1848, listed Oliver Gilbert as one of the enslaved individuals who had escaped from a Methodist tent revival. At just 16 years old, Oliver had made a daring decision to flee and seek freedom.

The years of research and reflection led Stephanie Gilbert to this pivotal moment at Pine Orchard Liquors. The encounter was not just about her family’s past but about seeking acknowledgment, understanding, and healing. The outcome of this meeting would determine whether Kim would be willing to embrace the shared history and open doors to a more inclusive future.

The story highlights the resilience of the human spirit and the power of connection, as Stephanie Gilbert and Jungsun Kim stand at the crossroads of history and the present, hoping to find common ground and build bridges between their worlds.

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