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Attacks on Johns Hopkins go too far | READER COMMENTARY

In this In this July 8, 2014 file photo, people walk on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University, whose researchers have been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, announced on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, that its founder owned slaves during the 19th century, a revelation for the Baltimore-based school that had taken pride in the man purportedly being a staunch abolitionist. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
In this In this July 8, 2014 file photo, people walk on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University, whose researchers have been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, announced on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, that its founder owned slaves during the 19th century, a revelation for the Baltimore-based school that had taken pride in the man purportedly being a staunch abolitionist. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) (Patrick Semansky/AP)

It would be nice to say the cancel culture has gone too far with their attempts to impugn Baltimore icon and Johns Hopkins University founder Johns Hopkins, but sadly that happened ages ago. They have, however, sunk to new depths. It has recently come to light that, according to the 1840 and 1850 censuses, there were slaves in his household (”The discovery that Hopkins founder enslaved people was not a surprise to many in Baltimore,” Dec. 11).

A little context is necessary. Johns Hopkins was a practicing Quaker. The Society of Friends banned slavery among the faithful in 1776. It’s extremely improbable an observant Quaker would hold slaves in the mid-19th century. It’s possible he was only a cafeteria Quaker, but his actions in refusing to marry against the faith, regretting having sold hard liquor, lending money to poorer customers at lower rates and most notably leaving his entire fortune to charity suggest otherwise. Just as likely is that he acquired the enslaved persons (which numbered four or five) through inheritance, gift, levy, trade or bankruptcy or that he purchased them with the intention of freeing them.

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By 1860, census records show he was not a slave holder. Unfortunately, freeing slaves in Maryland was not an easy matter. The cancel culture types also gleefully point out that there is no evidence to support the traditionally held notion that the Hopkins family freed their slaves in 1807, although there is no evidence to the contrary either. In 1753, Maryland made manumission by an individual illegal. It could only be done with permission of the legislature which was not always forthcoming. Quakers often fought long costly legal battles just to free their slaves.

In any event, there has long been a faction of ultra-woke crusaders on the Johns Hopkins University faculty. They would love nothing more than to discredit their namesake and change the name of the institution to something politically correct. History professor Martha S. Jones wrote that Johns Hopkins “ … traded in the liberty and dignity of other men and women.” To leap to such an insidious conclusion from such a fragile springboard is professionally and morally inexcusable. For University President Ronald J. Daniels to declare, in essence, that Mr. Hopkins should now be considered morally ambiguous is despicable.

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Robert l. Sova, Churchville

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