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Civil rights activist and former Capital columnist publishes book on race, politics, history

Annapolis civil rights activist and Convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders Carl Snowden gives remarks. A march and rally were held Saturday in Annapolis to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and draw attention to the greater problem of blacks being killed by police in America. Snowden released a book of this month containing some of his Capital columns on race, politics, history and life in Anne Arundel County.
Annapolis civil rights activist and Convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders Carl Snowden gives remarks. A march and rally were held Saturday in Annapolis to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and draw attention to the greater problem of blacks being killed by police in America. Snowden released a book of this month containing some of his Capital columns on race, politics, history and life in Anne Arundel County. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Carl Snowden’s words graced the pages of The Capital for decades, writing columns on race, politics, history and life in Anne Arundel County.

Now some of Snowden’s Capital columns, plus some social media posts and general commentary, have been published in a book released this month by Trafford Publishing called, “Some People Watch Clocks to Tell What Time It Is, I Watch People to Know What Time It Is.”

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It is the first book by Snowden, a civil rights activist for more than five decades. It explores his fight against racism, poverty and his forays into politics that brought him close to current and former officials at all levels of government. Snowden is a former Annapolis City Council member who ran for mayor and has known every Anne Arundel county executive dating back to Joseph Alton.

“In writing this book, I’m someone who’s been like an eyewitness to history. I’ve seen things unfold. And I’ve been very much a part of it,” he said.

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Snowden is hosting an online book reading Friday at 11 a.m.

In a column last year that appears in the book, Snowden examined the legacy of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings who died in October and the impact he has had on current County Executive Steuart Pittman. Snowden recounted the last speech Cummings gave six months before he died.

“Whenever someone passes the ultimate question is: ‘what is their legacy?' Last week, I saw the legacy of Cummings it came in the form of a letter that Pittman sent to every employee decrying the rise of hate crimes in the county,” Snowden wrote. “Pittman heard Cummings and he decided to do what no other county executive has ever done, write a letter to every employee and showing that ‘we are better than that.‘”

Cummings’ influence has stretched beyond that episode to this month, Snowden said, when Pittman expressed that Confederate statues in the county should be removed.

“When I bring a particular perspective to a subject, it is not from a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ standpoint,” he said. “It is after having been around long enough to be able to see history repeat itself and also to see changes, major changes, that occurred.”

The book’s title comes from the notion that Snowden measures progress by people’s actions rather than what year it is.

“To really know what time it is you’ve got to look at people, see where they are, what their attitudes are, what their behavior is,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, although we living in 2020, the tragedies that we keep seeing repeat itself over and over again. It is as if time has stood still.”

Publishing a book about racial justice and decades of civil rights activism feels timely, Snowden said, as protests of George Floyd’s death enter their third week across the county and country.

Snowden, who has marched at several protests in Anne Arundel County, said there is some advice in the book for the next generation of activists.

“One of the things that is crystal clear, and you learn this rather quickly: You can chant, you can march, you can demand, but if you don’t have an agenda, you will have had a great opportunity to exercise and exercise your lungs, but nothing will change,” he said.

With the presidential election less than five months away, the book could also foretell the current president’s fate at the ballot box, he said. In a June 25, 2019 column, Snowden predicted that the 2018 mid-terms, which saw the Democratic party pick up seats up and down the ballot, including retaking the House of Representatives, was a preview of this fall’s election.

“Last year’s mid-term elections I believe is a dress rehearsal for what is coming,” Snowden wrote. “Sometimes people do not appreciate history. Voters have a way of righting a situation.”

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Readers will probably have a range of reactions to the book, some good, some bad, Snowden said.

For example, the author said he mentions John Leopold, a former Anne Arundel County Executive who was found guilty of misconduct in office in 2013. Others might appreciate stories about national figures and their connection to Anne Arundel County, such as Snowden’s time working at WJZ in Baltimore with Oprah Winfrey before she was simply known by her given name.

He also shares his time getting to know Parren J. Mitchell, the first black man elected to the House of Representatives from Maryland.

The book was released just five days after Snowden’s mother Ora died at age 104. Snowden had hoped to show his mother the finished product, he said. He dedicated the book to her whom he has described as his most ardent supporter.

“She is prominently mentioned throughout this particular book because she was in many ways my barometer,” Snowden said. “I can always use her to judge how far we’ve come or how far we need to go just based on her life story, and what had happened to her.”

The author won’t be holding any book signings due to the coronavirus pandemic but will be holding readings online.

“Some People Watch Clocks to Tell What Time It Is, I Watch People to Know What Time It Is” can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $17.99. The book is not yet available in local stores. Readers can purchase the book directly from the author by sending the cost of the book plus $5 for shipping and handling to P.O. Box 371, Annapolis, Maryland 21404.

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