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.

Peter Samuel

Frederick

(43) comments

petersamuel

To those who claim that racism is endemic still: then how come according to Gallup blacks say 74% to 19% they are treated fairly at work, fairly at the store 69% to 29%, in restaurants bars and entertainment places fairly 74% to 23%, fairly by police 73% to 21%, fairly getting health care 82% to 16%. Satisfied with their life 88% to 11% (similar to whites 89% to 10%). They reject consideration of their race (affirmative action) wanting to be solely considered on their merit 50% to 44%. By 69% to 17% they think civil rights have improved. White attitudes to marriage with blacks have improved dramatically. In 1958 94% disapproved to 4% who approved of inter-racial marriage. By 2013 it was 13% disapproved to 84% approved (question not asked since). To the extent blacks have worse jobs, income and housing a minority 37% attribute it to discrimination while 60% say it is mostly “something else” (family breakdown etc). They are about equally divided on the reasons for higher incarceration rates. It’s true the surveys show increasing concern about the state of race relations, but I submit that that is an indication that people want to reduce remaining racism. A good sign. https://news.gallup.com/poll/1687/race-relations.aspx

Burgessdr

Wyatt Massey is a hypocritical snowflake. If he wants TJ name removed then he should also want the names and monuments removed for ALL Founding Fathers who owned slaves. FSK Mall, FSK Hotel, FSK Blvd, and Frederick Keys should also be purged because Francis Scott Key was a "racist" slaveholder as well.

montg

This is good idea, yes.

KellyAlzan

Good letter Peter!

sevenstones1000

Just name it North Frederick High School or Market Street High School or Rose Hill High School.

People are jerks. Don’t name things after them.

bgreenway

"Most financially successful people of that time did, including of course George Washington." Not so...many famous successful people DID NOT own slaves. It's not "just the way it was back then." Look up: Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Sam Adams, Thaddeus Stevens, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, etc. etc. etc. History is important; important enough to get it right.

gabrielshorn2013

I do not recall Mr. Samuel saying or implying "all". However, at the time of Thomas Johnson, all of the original colonies, then States allowed slavery under the law, and many well-to-do had slaves. They could work in the fields, or they could work in the house, but nonetheless, "indentured servants " or slaves. This was true in both the North and South, Boston, NY, Philadelphia, Charleston. Some ended soon after the Revolutionary war, some soon after the Civil War (MD, KY)

bgreenway

No one said ALL; neither me nor the original letter writer. That's probably why you don't recall it. Several names I DID mention were signers to the Declaration of Independence.

gabrielshorn2013

Yes, I recognized their names in your post. Fact is, Thomas Johnson was reflective of the leaders and well to do of his time. We can try to erase his name, but can't erase history, especially when it was a common occurrence.

Moon otter

When I was in middle school there was no Maryland history taught. When I was in Connecticut we had Ct history taught and was in 7th grade. I moved here between semesters while in 7th grade. L:ike I said don't name buildings, roads or anything else after people. It is the 21st century time for a renaming of the school and let the students pick it. It would have been nice to call it Rose Manor HS after the area.

nbouqu1

At least in MoCo, Maryland History is taught in 4th grade.

DickD

We definitely had New York State history, in New York and a lot more.

threecents

To everyone using the "moving the statue or changing the name will erase history" argument: please stop it. That is a terrible argument. Nobody wants to erase history. I don't want TJ's name changed, but I cringe when anyone uses that lame argument.

Craig Hicks

We can (and should) remember our history, and we can do this by teaching it in schools, museums, and historical sites. But there is a difference between remembering and teaching our history and choosing to honor someone by putting their name on a public building or putting a statue of them on public land. So for me, the question is not “should we remember them” but “should we honor them.”

nbouqu1

if you are looking for perfect people to name buildings after, you will find none. Especially through the lens of time. We name building after people and build statues to them to commemorate their accomplishments, not if they were "good" people. Those could be things like being the first person to walk on the moon, or hit 60 home runs in a single season. Or achieve some high office, the local kid who went all the way. To inspire the next generation to push themselves a little further, to leave their mark on the world and be remembered long after their gone.

Let me put it another way, recently deceased Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia had a law school named after him. Jokes about what the acronym for the Antonin Scalia School of Law aside, is he worthy of having a school named after him? Yes! Not because I agree with a d@mn thing he wrote as a Justice (in fact the only thing Scalia ever did that I agreed with was him dropping dead), but because of the position he held. It isn't is he a good person or are his views in line with mine or what society thinks is acceptable, it's that he made it to the height of his profession, and that should be marked, remembered and honored.

jsklinelga

Mr. Hicks,
You seem like a logical, intelligent fellow. More then likely you are not prone to idle chatter So your comment baffles me. Thomas Johnson was the first governor of Maryland and one of our founding fathers. Should we really not honor our founding fathers? Are you one of the new democrats that say America was never great?

Using the logic of disparaging a person;s or government's contribution based solely on one aspect of the total contribution is less than just. Maryland was a slave State. Should we change it's name? The Catholic church has a long history of wretched abuses. The very Catholic Queen of Spain was instrumental in expanding the slave trade. Should we seek reparations? Should we forbid any tax incentives to support that slave institution? The politics of blame is the real scourge on our country.

Craig Hicks

Jsklinelga, my comment says nothing about whether we should honor Thomas Johnson. It points to a difference I see between “remembering” and “honoring”—two concepts that seem to be conflated in much of this discussion.

DickD

Understood, but for me, it was the way it was at the time and if we hadn't acted and evolved we never would have been as good as we turned out to be. Yes, they were far from perfect, so are we. Times change, people change, history remains the same.

jsklinelga

Craig Hicks
Your comment below states we conflate "remember" and :"honor". To a degree yes. For his outstanding, notable contributions to Maryland and to our country I believe he should be honored beyond just remembered. Should we not honor his acts that deserve honor.

yogib

"and Massey’s claim that racism remains “endemic” is untrue. " Mr. Samuel, please walk in their shoes for few days and see how you are treated.

DickD

We have a lot of history to erase if we start worrying about trivialities.

Moon otter

Its not trivial to someone who is a minority.

gabrielshorn2013

So, you are applying the universal when saying all minorities light their hair on fire over things like this? Um...no.

DickD

True, but look at how far we have come, even though they remain a minority. Give the majority some credit too.

cleanrunoff

Maybe name a new school for John Brown ...

threecents

Right, even Gandhi and MLK are probably off limits now because of how they treated women. I think we can only name future schools after Cal Ripken and Neil Armstrong.

LAR1

But Neil Armstrong said he made one giant step for “man” and “mankind.” He was not representing women! So his name should not be used. Just pointing out that everyone did something objectionable at some point in their lives to the viewpoint of someone. Retain what we currently have but name future buildings and streets for their location. And while we are at it, how about statues honoring women and statues that represent peace, not war.

marylandmirage

I once happened to be in one of my children's classrooms when the teacher was covering 18th century government. She explained that women did not have the right to represent, nor to vote. She went on to say that she did not think that was fair, and then asked the class to raise their hands if they did not think it was fair. No, it wasn't fair, but it is what happened. This is what happens when 18th century practices are judged by 21st century standards. It cannot be changed and it is what it is - sometimes immoral or unethical, but fact.

gary4books

Good letter and is like a fresh wind in the paper.

Moon otter

The problem is in naming buildings, roads, after people, putting statues up where they don't belong, the list is endless. Let the students of TJ have the opportunity to rename the school for someone more appropriate. I never did like naming things after people because after a while nobody knows who they are anymore or the individual was actual a bad person. Glad I went to Catoctin HS named after the Catoctin mountains in the native tongue of Algonquians who named the mountains.

TINAE

Treat people as people?? Start with your President, and I got tired of seeing that racist statue of that man in front of the building where I paid my water bill, glad its gone.

Dwasserba

"Sure, he owned slaves." Breezy.

gary4books

Would we ask more of people than we would expect of ourselves? The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

threecents

Excellent LTE. I agree that it was reasonable to remove the Taney bust but not reasonable to rename TJ High.

cleanrunoff

Ignore racism and it will go away. Been working like a charm for over 50 years.

TINAE

Works like a charm right? They are living in a twilight zone.

big truck John

I agree also, very well said!!....I am so sick of everybody wanting to erase history instead of learning and teaching from it, and getting offended by every little thing!! Nothing but cry babies!!!

marinick1

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TINAE

The thing is they didn't even teach about Thomas Johnson in the school of Thomas Johnson that I attended. Wonder why?????? So teach and learn? Give us a break.

big truck John

Thomas Johnson might not have been taught about when you attended, but the point is lets teach and learn about history now!! The problem is everybody wants to jump on one negative thing and erase the whole past history instead of TEACHING AND LEARNING FROM IT!! YES!! (people want to get rid of the movie Gone with the Wind, because its offensive, mad that John Wayne said stuff back in the day, etc.) Its just crazy!! You can not just erase history!! We have to learn and start somewhere and somehow, lets be a part of the bridge building, it can be done!!

gary4books

Did you ever ask? Why not?

fnpzwack

Couldn’t agree more! Well done!

marinick1

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