Parsons Newman Lecture Series

Heritage Frederick proudly offers annual lectures, free of charge to the public, featuring diverse topics, historical figures, and experiences from the significant history of Frederick County and the surrounding region. In 2024, we are excited to announce the following Parsons Newman Lecture Series presentations:

Joshua Johnson and his Baltimore Patrons

with Mark B. Letzer

Thursday, February 29, 2024 • Lecture begins at 6:00 pm, doors open at 5:30 pm

Joshua Johnson or Johnston was one of the most important portrait painters in the early Republic. One of America’s first African American artists, he broke barriers by painting portraits of the rising merchant class in Baltimore. In this talk Mark Letzer will explore Johnson’s Baltimore and his patrons. As a formerly enslaved Black man in a slave society, Johnson, manumitted at the age of nineteen, carefully navigated a complex environment maintaining his free status while painting subjects that simultaneously held enslaved people in their households.

Mark Letzer is the former President and CEO of the Maryland Center for History and Culture. He was associated with the organization for twenty-eight years, serving as President for seven. Letzer co-edited The Diary of William Faris: The Daily life of an Annapolis Silversmith in 2003. In 2006 he curated the exhibition A Gardener’s Tale: The Eighteenth-century world of Annapolis Silversmith William Faris at the Maryland Historical Society. Letzer authored From Slave to “Self-Taught Genius” in the catalog Joshua Johnson: Portraitist of Early American Baltimore published in 2021 by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown. Letzer has lectured widely throughout Maryland and the mid-Atlantic on silver and decorative and fine arts.

About the Parsons Newman Lecture Series

Founded by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Hendrickson II for grants to Heritage Frederick to host historical lectures in Mr. Newman’s name.

Born in the City of Frederick on January 10, 1897, Parsons Newman was the son of John Shaw Newman and Amy Rebecca Parsons. After graduating from Boys High School in Frederick on 1914, Mr. Newman attended University of Virginia, where he earned both undergraduate and law degrees. In between his degrees, he served in World War I. After earning his law degree, Mr. Newman returned to Frederick, where he practiced law for more than 50 years, concentrating in real estate property, trust and estate matters, and financial and general corporation work. He was chair of one of the Frederick County Draft Boards and a member of the Maryland State Board of Bar Examiners, evaluating applicants for admission to the bar. He served as President of the Frederick County Bar Association and as a member of the Maryland and American Bar Associations. In 1922, he ran for and was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates for a four-year term.

In addition to a successful legal profession, Mr. Newman married Margaret Frances Besant, his wife of 37 years. He was active in the Frederick County community as president of the Frederick Kiwanis Club, the Historical Society of Frederick County, and the Community Chest, now known as United Way. He was a trustee of St. James School, Hood College, Home for the Aged (Record Street Home), and the C. Burr Artz Library. Moreover, Mr. Newman was an involved lifelong member of All Saints Episcopal Church. Among his personal passions, Mr. Newman enjoyed attending the Great Frederick Fair, cheering for the New York Yankees, collecting stamps, and studying history. He passed away on September 10, 1984 at the age of 87. To honor his memory and to remember his life, friends Mr. and Mrs. John D. Hendrickson II turned to the Community Foundation to establish The Parsons Newman Memorial Fund to provide funds to Heritage Frederick (formerly known as Historical Society of Frederick County) for a series of lectures known as the P. Newman Lecture Series.