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Maryland's Black history represented in hero recommendations

With a population that is about 31% Black, Maryland has the largest percentage of Black residents of any state outside of the Deep South.
Credit: AP
FILE - This Aug. 22, 1958 file photo shows Thurgood Marshall outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Maryland’s Black history is well-represented in Gov. Larry Hogan’s recommendations for President Donald Trump’s consideration in a planned National Garden of American Heroes. More than half of Hogan's 10 recommendations with local ties are Black, including the nation's first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who was born in Baltimore. Some of the white Marylanders Hogan is recommending were known for pursuing racial equality. (AP Photo, File)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan is highlighting heroes in Maryland’s Black history in his recommendations for President Donald Trump’s planned National Garden of American Heroes.

More than half of Hogan’s 10 recommendations with local ties are Black, including the nation’s first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, who was born in Baltimore. Some of the white Marylanders whom Hogan is recommending were known for pursuing racial equality.

“I am happy to see that the Task Force you are leading will provide options to remember and recognize our important national heroes,” Hogan wrote in response to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in a July 30 letter.

Benjamin Banneker, a surveyor and astronomer who was appointed by President George Washington to survey the nation’s capital and advocated for racial equality, was recommended by Hogan. Josiah Henson, an abolitionist whose autobiography is believed to have inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which helped make Americans aware of how slaves were being treated, also was recommended.

Benjamin Oliver Davis, who was an Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, also has been recommended, as well as George Alexander Hackett, who served as a steward on the U.S.S. Constitution and was captain of an all African-American military regiment.

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In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the governor also recommended Isaac Myers, who led the African-American trade union movement. Myers later became the first Black postal inspector, serving under President Ulysses S. Grant.

Trump ordered up the statue park during a Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore and set up a task force on a 60-day deadline to get the idea going.

The task force charged with executing Trump’s vision – all of whose publicly listed members are white — says it sent out thousands of requests to state and local officials for suggestions, both for possible sites around the country and for heroes to honor. Its findings are due to be given to Trump by Tuesday.

Many of the nominations stand in stark contrast to the list the Trump administration came up with, which mandated inclusion of a few dozen mainstream and conservative figures, from John Adams to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman — both from Maryland’s Eastern Shore — and a few other Black leaders made the Trump administration’s hero list, but not anyone known for their Native American, Hispanic or Asian heritage.

Suggestions from many Republican governors, by contrast, were heavy with civil rights leaders, while many local officials pushed for a broader definition for what it means to be a hero.

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With a population that is about 31% Black, Maryland has the largest percentage of Black residents of any state outside of the Deep South.

Hogan also recommended several white people with Maryland ties who were known for working for racial equality, including Johns Hopkins, the entrepreneur, abolitionist and philanthropist. Hogan also recommended Anna Ella Carroll, who was born in Pocomoke, Maryland. She was an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and worked to keep Maryland in the Union.

The governor also recommended Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, and Rachel Carson — the conservationist whose book “Silent Spring” and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Bernhardt also asked in a letter seeking recommendations for the garden whether Maryland had a potential location for it. The governor recommended Oxon Cove Park, a national historic district operated by the National Park Service in Oxon Hill, Maryland. 

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a 184.5-mile (296-kilometer) trail extending from Washington to Cumberland, Maryland, also was noted, as well as the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Montgomery County, not far from the nation’s capital.

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