On Oct. 24, 2022 Louis Sylvester Diggs, the “premier historian of Baltimore County” died at age 90.

By Marnita Coleman,
Special to the AFRO

Dubbed the “premier historian of Baltimore County,” the late Louis S. Diggs’ legacy consists of 13 books and an honorary membership to the Historical Society of Baltimore County. Diggs is founder of the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland and founder of the Diggs-Johnson Museum in Woodstock, Md. 

In 1950, Diggs stopped attending Douglass High School in Baltimore to join an all-Black Maryland National Guard Unit, the 726th Transportation Truck Company of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion. His battalion was federalized and sent to fight in the Korean War, becoming the first Black company in Korea. 

Upon his return home, Diggs served as Sergeant Major of the ROTC Detachment at Morgan State College. Making a career out of his military experience, Diggs retired from the U.S. Army in 1970 with 20 years of service.

After his retirement, Diggs became a military instructor in the District of Columbia school system while simultaneously completing his high school requirements in 1975, earning a diploma. He continued his educational pursuit at Catonsville Community College finishing with an associate degree in 1976. By 1979, Diggs acquired a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Public Administration by 1982. He retired from the District of Columbia school system as assistant to the personnel director for staffing in 1989.

“After my father retired from D.C. public schools, he became a substitute teacher and discovered that students really didn’t know a lot about the local African American history in Baltimore County,” recalls Federic Q. Diggs. “He took it upon himself to start researching things and sharing his findings with his students. That’s what started it all off.”

Diggs discovered that Baltimore County had designated 40 African American enclaves to be “historic,” along with 35 churches and some schools. He recorded the history of every African American community. 

Birthed out of research, Diggs wrote his first book, “It All Started on Winters Lane,” detailing how African-American communities sprang to life in the county after chattel slavery ended. 

Diggs’ love for writing uncovered African American communities that stretched from Catonsville to Dundalk’s Turner Station. The history continued to unfold and Diggs’ documented findings were shared through free bus tours, plaques and the books he wrote, such as “Since the Beginning,” “In Our Voices,” “Holding On To Their Heritage,” and “From the Meadows to The Point.”

Betty Stewart, a close friend and protégé spoke about the historian. 

“Mr. Diggs had a passion for preserving the history, heritage and legacy of African American life in Baltimore County. He also had a passion for documenting historic African American churches. His mission was to put them on the national register of historic places and provide information so people would know just how important they were to the African Americans that grew up there.”

In 2017, Diggs’ work was applauded by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in an award ceremony where recipients received the Louis S. Diggs Award for outstanding contributions to the county’s African-American community. The award was established and named after Diggs.

On Oct. 24, 2022, at the age of 90, Louis S. Diggs, author and scholar of African American history in Baltimore County, was laid to rest with the ancestors. But his work lives on!