The two have bridged a gap of history and not only formed a friendship, but also embarked on a mission to highlight the contributions those slaves made to Taneytown’s history — including those who remained there after being freed.
Michelle Greer is a descendant of the Hill-Cook line dating to the 1800s before the abolishment of slavery. Some of Greer’s ancestors were enslaved by a member of the Taney family who owned a plantation in Taneytown.
Kate Billingsley is a descendant of Augustus Taney, who was a cousin of the owner of Greer’s ancestors and a brother of Roger B. Taney, the former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Through their combined research, Greer and Billingsley have yet to find the first name of the Taney cousin who owned Greer’s ancestors.
Even though Billingsley is distant in the lineage of the Taneys that owned Greer’s ancestors, she still acknowledges the wrongs of slavery and doesn’t care about how far back the connection is.
“I know that I’m descended from the original two Taneys that came through. So they were brothers. So there’s a sense of, I don’t really care that it’s fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh cousins away that owned (Greer’s) people,” Billingsley said. “Therefore, there’s a sense of acknowledgement.”
Billingsley’s work as a playwright caught Greer’s attention and led her to reach out.