ANNAPOLIS — A consortium of civil rights activists, religious officials and elected officials will embark on a “Summer’s Freedom Bus Ride” from Annapolis to Ocean City next Monday to bring attention to the systemic racism across the Eastern Shore.
Organized by Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders (CAAL) in Anne Arundel County, the Freedom Bus will make stops in Easton, Cambridge and Salisbury before reaching its final destination in Ocean City.
Snowden said in a statement that this year’s Freedom Bus Ride, scheduled for July 19, is reminiscent of the Freedom Rides of the 1960s to highlight inequities in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and other states across the south.
Many complaints of alleged racial intolerance have been documented across the Eastern Shore, with recent incidents primarily involving alleged police assaults and mistreatment and Confederate monuments.
In Easton, bus riders will stop at the Talbot Boys Monument in front of the Talbot County Circuit Courthouse on Monday, July 19. The statue, which honors members of the Confederacy, has created a divide in the county and is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. The Talbot County Council voted 3-2 last year not to remove the statue.
Moving down U.S. Route 50, the Freedom Bus will make a stop in Cambridge, the birthplace of Harriet Tubman. Civil rights activist H. Rap Brown also visited Cambridge in 1967, the summer of race riots across the country. Brown is known for delivering a fiery speech to protesters in the city, saying “if Cambridge doesn’t come around, Cambridge got to be burned down.” Riots and fires later spread across the city, causing significant damage that the community is still healing from.
The tour will also visit Salisbury — the city where a Black man named Matthew Williams was lynched, dragged through the streets and burned by a white mob in 1931. Williams was accused of shooting his white employer over low wages, and was later taken by police to the hospital with gunshot wounds. Members of the mob came into the hospital to take Williams, who was in custody, to be lynched.
The Freedom Bus will finish its tour in Ocean City, where a group of young Black teenagers were allegedly assaulted by police officers in June. Historically, Ocean City, its beaches and other towns on the Shore had segregationist laws and atmospheres that excluded or restricted Black people and other minorities.
Organizations supporting the CAAL include the NAACP, United Black Clergy, Connecting the Dots, March on Maryland, Showing Up For Racial Justice, Freedom Fighters and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee. Leaders from these groups are meeting with the mayor of Ocean City and plan on holding a press conference once arriving.
“We believe that given the uprising of racial incidents and alleged police misconduct, it is important that elected officials and business leaders understand that systemic racism must be addressed and eliminated in the state of Maryland,” Snowden said.
Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.