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Baltimore City Paper

Wandering Eye: Anne Arundel County's checkered voting history, before Baltimore embraced Poe, and more

Today's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. gives good reason to consider Maryland's electoral history in the era of this country's civil-rights struggle, along with a contemporary fact: that a majority of Anne Arundel County's wealthy, largely white, well-educated electorate in the Fifth Councilmanic District last fall handed victory to Michael Anthony Peroutka, a paleo-conservative Christian secessionist with white-supremacist ties. In the 1968 presidential election, more than a fifth of Anne Arundel's votes went to Southern segregationist George Wallace of the American Independent Party, which was later subsumed by the Constitution Party, of which Peroutka was the presidential candidate in 2004. And in 1972's Democratic presidential party, Wallace won Anne Arundel with more than 51 percent of the vote in an 11-way race, and took the Free State overall, with about 40 percent of the vote. Those were different times, but despite demographic and political changes since, Anne Arundel's Fifth District voters have shown how King's civil-rights message still finds pockets of outspoken resistance in Maryland, and thus needs renewed attention. (Van Smith)

Baltimore teens in some neighborhoods live in worse conditions than their counterparts in Nigeria, a nation with a per-capita income of about $2,800, a brutal and incompetent military, and a terrorist insurgency that is currently massacreing whole towns. This is the conclusion of a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health which RT wrote about last month. The researchers surveyed youth in Baltimore; New Delhi; Johannesburg, South Africa; Ibadan, Nigeria; and Shanghai, asking them whether they felt safe in their neighborhoods and whether they had witnessed or suffered violence. According to the study: "The two cities showed the lowest number of teenagers who felt safe in their neighborhoods (percentages ranged from 43.9 percent among males in Johannesburg to 66.1 percent of females in Baltimore), as well as the highest averages for witnessing violence (8.9 percent for males and 7.0 percent among females in Johannesburg; 7.0 percent among males and 6.3 percent among females in Baltimore)." Fifty percent of adolescent girls in Baltimore, and 29 percent in Johannesburg, had been pregnant, the study, whose lead author was Kristen Mmari, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, found. Here is something interesting that the study found that RT did not highlight: While perceptions of violence in Baltimore were among the highest, reports of victimization by Baltimore teens was among the lowest, with only Shanghai teens reporting lower victimization than Baltimore (for males) and Shanghai and New Delhi reporting lower victimization rates (for females). The numbers are still horrible—nearly a third of Baltimore girls and more than a quarter of boys in the study reported being attacked within the past year. But nearly half of the Ibadan boys reported violent victimization; in Johannesburg it was more than two-thirds. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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In addition to being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, today is also the birthday of famed writer Edgar Allan Poe, whose remains, as you surely know, reside here in Baltimore. Though there is some debate over who lays claim to Poe's legacy, it's hard to imagine Baltimore without the writer: His face adorns the labels of a local beer and our football team is named for one of his most famous poems. Yet Chris Kaltenbach has a post over on The Sun's Retro Baltimore site about a time when, as one letter writer lamented in The New York Times in 1909, "Not one person in 10,000 knew that Edgar Allan Poe was buried in that city." Decades later, the city planned to raze a house on North Amity Street, where Poe lived for a time in the 1830s with his aunt and cousin (who was also his eventual bride). The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore jumped in to save the house—but they first had to determine if it was actually 203 or 205. Two years of research determined it was indeed 203, and plans were put in place to open the home as a shrine and tourist attraction. When it officially opened in 1949, almost a century to the day when Poe died in Baltimore, a crowd of nearly 250 people tried to cram inside. "If, as one woman suggested, the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe is really walking the streets of Baltimore this centenary," The Sun reported the next day, "it would have needed all the agility ectoplasm can summon . . . to have squeezed into his tiny Amity Street home." As Sun arts critic Donald Kirkley noted around the time, most people now knew of Poe's connection to Baltimore. (Brandon Weigel)


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