Arabbers like George “Blue” Kellum, were horse lovers, committed to self reliance. The Baltimore Arabbers, located in the state of Maryland, are individuals who have sustained a practice over generations to become an institution in Baltimore by servicing industry and the community. They are distinct in their calls and decorated carts, each Arabber travels a specific assigned route bringing fresh produce and fresh seafood to the doors of Baltimore community members. To this day, you can still find a few Arabbers in Baltimore city selling fresh produce on horse-drawn carts.
The Arabbers culture links many elements to the essence of Baltimore. Baltimore is a port city on the Patapsco River that empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and is known for its seafood. Baltimore is also a hub for trade as well as the city where boundless numbers of people migrated to find employment with the port as one of the main employers. Even the Arabbers come to the docks to load up with fresh seafood and goods.
Baltimore was a major hub in American slave history. In addition to it being a place that shipped in tons of agricultural products, it was also a funnel for Black lives as slave labor. After the abolition of slavery, it was a major stop for those migrating from the deep south. This is a part of the story of George “Blue” Kellam, Melosong Edwards and Jae Boston.
As Mrs. Melosong Edwards, Mr. Blue’s daughter explained about her father, "this job wasn’t easy.” Just as her father sometimes came in completely exhausted from driving the cart all day and into the night, Mr. Blue could be so tired he couldn’t eat dinner. However, he still had to pack away the cart, feed, brush and prepare the horse for sleep; and return to the family before rising up to do it all over again the next day.
Mr. Jae Boston, Blue’s nephew, recalled that Blue was one of the men who helped to raise him, and used the culture of Arabbing as a vehicle to impart lessons on to him that he equated to rites of passage for him and his cousins. Mr. Boston learned from his uncle how to care for the horses and stables, how to do signature Arraber calls, and how to load-up and sell from the carts. Blue regularly reminded Jae to always have a business that he could operate independently. In addition, the men taught the boys life lessons and behaviors they associated with manhood. Though Mr. Boston did not follow this path of am Arabber, he appreciated learning life's lessons from his uncle. He described his family as aspirers. He recognized that the transitions they made, be it leaving Virginia to Arabbing in Baltimore, were all in aspirations to make a better life for themselves and their families.
With far more regulations now than in their heyday , there are still Arabbers trying to keep the Arrabing culture and practice alive. The Arabbers, to many of a lower economic status, were a great source of community based public welfare.
Mr. Blue was an Arabber known for his generosity. If someone along his route did not have enough money for food, he would not let that family go hungry. Mr. Blue made it part of his responsibility to help his fellow human. And, he had a special place in his heart for the elderly. Mrs. Edwards attributed it to the love he had for the elders in his family. The Baltimore Arabbers are still present today so if you are in this city and see one with their beautifully painted horse-drawn carts , you are witnessing a piece of history.