While kicking off a ceremony marking the inauguration of Gov. Wes Moore, Maryland’s first Black governor, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman acknowledged the moment’s historic nature by confessing a family connection to enslaved people. His ancestor, Dr. George Hume Steuart, a prominent 18th century politician and tobacco planter, had made his fortune through slave labor.
“I have deep roots in this county and this state,” Pittman said. “Today has been a very long time coming.”
Pittman, a Democrat and one of the first state leaders to endorse Moore’s campaign in September 2021, served as master of ceremonies Wednesday on the State House steps in Annapolis.
George Steuart, a physician who emigrated to Maryland from Scotland in 1721, made his wealth “on the backs of enslaved men, women and children from Africa,” Pittman said.
Steuart eventually became a wealthy landowner and served in various political offices, including mayor of Annapolis from 1759 to 1763. He lived on land that would later be the site of the Government House. “He lived right there,” Pittman said, pointing to the red brick mansion, which now serves as the governor’s residence. Moore and his family will live there for the next four years.
“Three hundred years later … when I stood a few steps from that house behind a podium alongside a magnificent new friend named Wes Moore … the magic of what this day could mean, the healing of what this election could offer, was presented as if by a higher power, a portal to a brighter future.”
“But I did not join team Moore on that day simply to send a message to my ancestors, as sweet as that message may be,” Pittman continued, “I joined for the same reason most of Maryland joined. I, like you, was looking for a leader who would listen. A human being to remind us what it means to be human. It’s just that simple.”
A few minutes later, in his first speech as governor, Moore briefly acknowledged the country’s long history tainted by slavery and human subjugation but opted to look toward a more hopeful tomorrow.
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“Today is not an indictment of the past,” he said. “It’s a celebration of our future.”
Pittman, who recently won reelection in Anne Arundel County, has previously acknowledged he’s spent most of his adult life reckoning with his family’s history of slavery.
“For me and some of my sisters, as well, it’s just always there,” he told The Capital in 2018 when he first ran for county executive. “You want to respect your ancestors and you want to see the good in them because they’re who you came from, and the whole slavery thing changes all of that. You do carry that forever.”
During his first term, Pittman made it a priority to begin healing racial fault lines and recognizing the county’s history of racism. In 2019, he helped unveil a marker commemorating at least five African Americans killed in lynchings across Anne Arundel County. A year later, he renamed the park where the marker stands to honor the predominantly Black former residents of the old Fourth Ward who were displaced by racially exclusionary housing policies.
Last month, Pittman held his second inauguration at Crownsville Hospital Memorial Park, a location specifically chosen to highlight the mistreatment of mentally ill Black Marylanders that once took place there and underscore his plans to turn the former psychiatric facility into a park and nonprofit center.
“I promised in my inaugural speech four years ago to begin the process of acquiring this land and its buildings from the state of Maryland,” Pittman said in December, “so that the people of Anne Arundel County could, and I quote, ‘transform this tainted jewel at the heart of our county into a place where healing happens through the powerful medicine of nature.’”
Read the entirety of Pittman’s inaugural remarks at: trib.al/BT4ghgu