Thurgood Marshall’s painting replaces a possible slave drawing


Senator William C. Smith Jr. (Demontgomery) did not escape this omission.

There were a few portraits of black historical figures on the walls of the Maryland State Senate in Annapolis. However, Smith has gone through years of filming Cecilius Calvertwho Maryland historians say was likely a slave, each time entered the room where legislators heard bills on criminal justice.

“A lot of people say it’s not a big deal — codes won’t educate the uneducated or put food on the table or shelter the homeless — but we all know that codes are very important because they make public spaces like this more open and welcoming,” said Smith, the first black person to chair the procedures committee. judiciary in the Senate.

About 18 months ago, Smith launched a project that would lead to Calvert’s downfall. And on Thursday, he joined Ernest Shaw Jr., an artist and educator from West Baltimore, to unearth a painting by a young Thurgood Marshall, also born in Baltimore.

Shaw arrested Marshall, a civil rights advocate and later the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, after Marshall won the appeals court case that eventually led to the desegregation of the University of Maryland Law School.

“Just think about how much an image like this affects someone who has never seen themselves reflected on the walls of the halls of power,” Smith said during the ceremony. “The image of the young lawyer in the midst of his fight for civil rights will serve as a symbol of hope for all who will come to the commission in search of justice.”

The image also symbolizes the sea change taking place in Maryland. After centuries of white men holding the most powerful positions in the state in Annapolis, blacks, immigrants, and white women will soon move the levers of power in state government.

Governor-elect Wes Moore, who will be the first black man to serve as Maryland’s governor, will take office later this month. He will join Attorney General Anthony G. Brown, State Treasurer Derek Davis, Speaker of the House Adrian Jones — all black — and Brooke Lerman, who will be the first woman to serve as state comptroller. Incoming Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller will be the first immigrant to hold the position, having come to the United States from India as a child.

“Did you know that there would be no white men on the Public Works Board?” asked Sen. Charles Sydnor (D-Baltimore) after the ceremony, almost in disbelief, noting that the three-committee board that approves government contracts will consist of one white woman and two black men. “With Brock winning, the glass ceiling broke. With Adrienne, the glass ceiling broke. It’s really amazing.”

In Maryland, blacks are poised to fill four critical positions of power

In the past decade, as Maryland has become one of the most diverse states in the country, officials are taking increasing steps to ensure that the complex grounds of the statehouse—and its walls—reflect not only transformation, but also the appropriate black people’s contribution to its history.

For nearly 300 years, the only people represented on the walls of state government were white men, Maryland State Archivist Elaine Rice-Bachmann said Thursday. As the electorate changed and as legislators and the public made requests, the state group evolved.

There are now photos of Mary Resto, the first woman elected to the Maryland state legislature, Verda Wellcome, the first black woman, Chief Justice Robert Peel, the first black person to serve as chief justice in Maryland and Richard Dixon, the first woman, she said. Black treasurer.

“But despite this progress,” she said, “it’s still important to go back to history and represent Marylanders, who were neither elected nor recognized in their era.”

Maryland’s demographic transition has been driven in large part by a growing Asian and Latino population that, along with Native Americans, remains underrepresented in the hallways and on the walls of the statehouse.

After the murderous march of white nationalists in Charlottesville six years ago, the statue of former US Supreme Court Justice Roger B. gave them eggs, Removed from Maryland territory.

In 2019, Jones (D-Baltimore) pushed to have a plaque sympathizing with the Confederacy removed from the State House rotunda. A year later, following a national racial reckoning, the plaque that had been installed at the height of the civil rights movement was removed.

The image uploaded Thursday was the second by Shaw, who attended Baltimore City public schools, the Baltimore School of Art, Morgan State University, and Howard University and hails from the same neighborhood as Marshall.

The first iteration of the drawing was rejected by a committee to commission an artist for the project, and some considered it too “aggressive”. Smith said there was some concern that Marshall’s eyes were not fully open and that they included a “slightly different hand gesture”.

After some comments, the younger Shaw cleared Marshall, before winning the historic 1954 race Brown v. Board of Education The case that declared segregated public schools unconstitutional. The painting, which was paid for with donations from 30 individuals and corporations, was based on a photo Avro took after winning the Court of Appeals in 1936.

“We weren’t trying to put down or change his identity,” Smith said. “There were so many sides of him. It shows him as a young man, a little bit hungry. His suit doesn’t fit well. He’s going up at that point in his life.”

Nor is the painting the first time that a portrait of a black historical figure has replaced a white one.

Six years ago, a group of black elementary students from Baltimore City, who toured the historic Statehouse and Senate complex in Annapolis, wrote then-sen. Bill Ferguson (Dem-Baltimore) Thank you for your messages about their visit.

Ferguson said the letters taught him a lesson he will not soon forget.

The students said they “looked all around us, and we didn’t see anyone who looked like us.”

Three years ago, Ferguson had one of his firsts as president of the Senate Unveil a picture Verda Freeman’s welcome is now hanging in the back of the Senate chamber.

Hello, an educator and civil rights pioneer, was the first black woman in the nation to be elected to the state senate. Her portrait replaced a 115-year-old painting by a former ruler.

“As a white man, the privilege of walking around this complex and not looking and noticing is something that really struck me – I didn’t notice,” Ferguson said Thursday night. “As I started walking down the halls and walking around the State Capitol, it was very evident that we weren’t telling every single Marylander’s story.”

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