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Wes Moore’s election a proud moment for Black veterans like me | READER COMMENTARY

Gov.-elect Wes Moore gestures during the announcement of his first cabinet appointments on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

Veterans Day was very special to many members of the Maryland community (“From serving in uniform to serving in office: Wes Moore is first veteran to be elected Maryland governor in 36 years,” Nov. 11). We should all look forward to Wes Moore assuming the office of governor.

When I was a student at Morgan State University, I was a part of a group of students that took buses from Baltimore to the Maryland State House to protest budget cuts to historically Black colleges and universities. It was actually my first visit to the state capital. Through a previous arrangement with the Maryland State Police, we would be allowed to disembark from our buses, march, chant and sit on the State House steps before being “removed” to a lot a short distance away. The most striking thing that I took away from the day was seeing a statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney staring down at a group of college students that were descendants of slaves.

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Justice Taney was born into a wealthy slave-owning family in Calvert County. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates before eventually becoming chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In that role, he authored the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision. A major question in the Dred Scott case was whether Black people had the right to bring an action in federal court. In the 1857 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution was not meant to include citizenship for people of African descent. Taney went so far as to say, “It is the will of the Creator that Black people have no rights that white people are required to respect whatsoever.”

Wes Moore is not just a young Black veteran. He is an exciting leader and an innovator. I know him from his New York days as the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, which is dedicated to the eradication of poverty. I served as the chair of the Fortune Society, and the missions of the two organizations overlap. He was right for Robin Hood, and he is right for Maryland. On Veterans Day I often think of my father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Roland Nicholson, Sr. He returned home to Baltimore from combat duty in Europe in 1945 to find that his wartime service did not entitle him to anything. He walked upstairs to the street level outside of Baltimore’s Penn Station in a driving rainstorm and found that he was asked to move to the back of the bus, which he refused to do, and that no taxicab would stop for a Black GI in a class A uniform with ribbons on his chest and $5,000 in his pocket. He walked 6 miles home. In a driving rainstorm.

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When I was on active duty, I gave my parents an anniversary party in the officers club on my base, a club that my father, even if he had been an officer, would not have been allowed to enter during World War ll. Wes Moore and I both spent some time at the Officers Club at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was always aware of the history.

Marylanders should look forward to a new day. Frederick Douglass hopped on a ship in Baltimore harbor and escaped the chains of slavery. Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in Dorchester County in 1849. She retuned many times to free other enslaved Black Marylanders. I intend to be at the State House when Wes Moore take the oath of office. We will be spared the scowl of Roger Taney. He was removed from the grounds in 2017.

After my first visit to Annapolis, I wrote to then-House Speaker Marvin Mandel that I thought it was inappropriate for a large bronze likeness of Taney to be displayed. He wrote back that while he found it encouraging that someone as young as I had gotten involved in the legislative process, he also told me that I should respect the fact that Taney was a native Marylander and that for the reason Marylanders should be proud.

The next time I sing, “Maryland, My Maryland,” I will feel a bit more enthusiastic.

— Roland Nicholson Jr., Baltimore

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