A time to re­flect on Bal­ti­more he­roes

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - An­drea K. McDaniels

We all know about Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, the great Mary­land abo­li­tion­ist and or­a­tor, and Har­ri­ett Tub­man, who led fel­low slaves from Mary­land on per­ilous trips to free­dom.

Ms. Tub­man in par­tic­u­lar has re­ceived long over­due recog­ni­tion in re­cent years, in­clud­ing a mo­tion pic­ture based on her life, a state park in her honor and a statue at the State House in An­napo­lis. Yeo­man ef­forts to re­place Andrew Jack­son’s im­age on the $20 bill with that of the great con­duc­tor of the Un­der­ground Rail­road were also made, though thwarted by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

And while Mary­lan­ders should be proud and cel­e­brate these great his­toric fig­ures, Black History Month also of­fers a time to cel­e­brate other African Amer­i­can he­roes who have made great con­tri­bu­tions to the state, but not gar­nered the same pub­lic at­ten­tion. These are people who fought so that African Amer­i­cans could have bet­ter po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and ba­sic civil rights. Their fight is even more rel­e­vant as some of those same is­sues have reap­peared.

We can use the work of po­lit­i­cal think tank Lead­ers of a Beau­ti­ful Strug­gle as a cheat sheet. The group be­gan chron­i­cling important po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in Bal­ti­more a cou­ple of years ago. Among other things, they hoped to learn from the ac­tivists and po­lit­i­cal scions of the past, rather than try to rein­vent the wheel. This year, the group put the names of eight of these people on a T-shirt.

“There are lot of black people that a lot of us did not know that set up the foun­da­tion for the po­lit­i­cal work that we do,” said Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Adam J.

Jack­son. “People way smarter than us, way more ex­pe­ri­enced than us, did this way be­fore we were born, and we should follow their lead.”

Rep­re­sented on the t-shirt are:

Verda Free­man Wel­come, the first African Amer­i­can woman to be elected to the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates and Se­nate as well as the first African Amer­i­can per­son to be elected to any state Se­nate in the United States. Ms. Wel­come should be­come vis­i­ble since her por­trait was re­cently moved to a more prom­i­nent place in the Se­nate cham­bers.

Wil­liam Lloyd “Lit­tle Wil­lie” Adams, a busi­ness­man, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and fi­nancier who started as a num­bers run­ner and went to be­come a huge in­flu­ence on black eco­nomic power, bankrollin­g count­less busi­nesses owned by African Amer­i­cans.

Vic­torine Adams, wife to Wil­lie, could have eas­ily hid­den in the shad­ows of her hus­band, but in­stead made waves as big as his. Long be­fore she be­came the first black woman elected to the Bal­ti­more City Council, she pushed po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment among African Amer­i­cans, or­ga­niz­ing mas­sive voter reg­is­tra­tion drives. She was also the cat­a­lyst for the Fuel Fund of Mary­land, which pro­vides fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to people strug­gling to pay their util­ity bills.

Juanita Jack­son Mitchell, the first black woman to prac­tice law in Mary­land and the first black woman to at­tend the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Law. She used her de­gree to in­te­grate restau­rants, pub­lic schools and recreation fa­cil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Com­mis­sion for Women. Part of the prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal Mitchell fam­ily, she also or­ga­nized many of the voter reg­is­tra­tion ef­forts for the NAACP.

Ray­mond Hays­bert Sr. was CEO of the black-owned Parks Sausage com­pany, but was also a skilled po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive. He helped Harry Cole get elected the first black state senator in Mary­land, and helped the owner of Parks Sausage, Henry J. Parks Jr. (also a trail­blazer in business) win a seat on the Bal­ti­more City Council in 1963.

Madeline Wheeler Mur­phy, writer, ac­tivist and ad­vo­cate for the poor. She was of­ten heard on tele­vi­sion and ra­dio talk­ing lo­cal pol­i­tics and was on the first poverty board for the Com­mu­nity Ac­tion Com­mis­sion.

Wal­ter P. Carter, chair­man of the lo­cal chap­ter of Congress of Racial Equal­ity (CORE). Mr. Carter or­ga­nized 1960 Free­dom Rides to the Eastern Shore and helped de­seg­re­gate Gwynn Oak Park. He led count­less protests against seg­re­gated fa­cil­i­ties.

Par­ren Mitchell, Mary­land’s first black con­gress­man. As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Mary­land 7th Con­gres­sional District, also held by the late Eli­jah Cum­mings, Mr. Mitchell was a found­ing mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus and spear­headed fed­eral pro­grams to aid mi­nor­ity-owned busi­nesses.

Sto­ries about African Amer­i­cans not cel­e­brated enough can also be found at The Regi­nald F. Lewis Mu­seum of Mary­land African Amer­i­can History and Cul­ture. Ear­lier this week, the mu­seum cel­e­brated Glo­ria Richard­son Day in honor of the woman who led The Cam­bridge Move­ment fight for equal­ity in the Eastern Shore town.

The list of people I have noted is not meant to be all in­clu­sive. There are plenty of more people that fought the good fight, so that African Amer­i­cans had chances at bet­ter lives.

Much re­spect to all of those people as well.

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