Wyatt Massey (School Notes, News-Post, April 23) wants us to “confront racism” and thinks that we celebrate Thomas Johnson as a slave owner. Wrong. Thomas Johnson is celebrated as a great Fredericktonian, a great Marylander and a great American. In 1761 Fredericktonians elected him to the Maryland Assembly. That assembly in 1774 sent him to Philadelphia as a Maryland representative to the Continental Congress. Along with Benjamin Franklin, Johnson was one of the first members of revolutionary Congress’ Committee on (secret) Correspondence and a key figure in the country’s struggle for independence. He was the drafter of important parts of the state constitution and he was the state’s first elected and representative governor.
Thomas Johnson is our “founding father.”
Sure, he owned slaves. Most financially successful people of that time did, including of course George Washington. We can celebrate them for their huge public service to the nation without condoning their slavery or racism, which was widespread at the time.
TJ’s bust should never have been removed from the front of City Hall in March 2017. It was removed by order of Mayor Randy McClement when they removed the bust of U.S. Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. The mayor was concerned about the aesthetic “asymmetry” of removing just Taney’s bust and leaving another — a silly concern. Taney’s bust was rightly removed and his name should never be celebrated. His most consequential public act was as chief justice. Taney “owns” the notorious Dred Scott ruling, which was racist and pro-slavery through and through. Taney’s place in American history was defined by the execrable Dred Scott court ruling, whereas the constitutions protecting our liberty define Johnson’s place in history.
Johnson is rightly celebrated as one of the band of men who signed on to the anti-racist, anti-slavery proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ...” It took far too long to realize that ideal. But for all its faults America is now the world’s most successful multiracial nation, and Massey’s claim that racism remains “endemic” is untrue. We do not need, as he urges, to “confront” past racism or slavery. No one alive is responsible for slavery.
We’d make more progress toward getting rid of racism that remains if we thought and talked less about race, and treated people as people regardless of their ethnic background.