ST. MICHAELS The Maryland Department of Transportation has agreed to dedicate state Route 33 in memory of former resident and noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
In a letter to St. Michaels resident George A. Seymour, who made the request to the state, Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari wrote that the Maryland Transportation Commission met and agreed to dedicate the road in tribute to Douglass. Erin Henson, a Department of Transportation spokesman, said the state has not yet determined when the ceremony will be held, or where the signs will go.
"Your interest in honoring Mr. Douglass befits a man whose life and experiences greatly influenced the abolitionist movement in the country, and served as a hallmark for the struggle to ensure equality and freedom for all citizens in Maryland and the United States, regardless of their particular race," Porcari wrote.
Dedicating the road instead of renaming it means that no addresses will have to be changed or maps altered. The only cost, to be borne by the state, will be to install signs in honor of Douglass.
The movement to dedicate the road began when Seymour wrote a letter to The Star Democrat last November in support of recognizing the road on which Douglass walked "his first steps towards freedom."
After Douglass and three other slaves were caught trying to escape in 1836, they were marched along Route 33 by officers on horseback from McDaniel to Easton, where Douglass, the ringleader, was jailed for two weeks. Douglass was then sold to Baltimore, from where he escaped to freedom two years later.
"Frederick Douglass had many moments of anger and resentment about the pre-Civil War society which held him a slave and tried to keep him uneducated," Seymour wrote. "He witnessed many events of cruelty to his family and fellow slaves; however, his thought matured and lifted him above hatred and revenge to envision ways to a better America. He became a leader far in advance of his times whose influence continues to benefit all mankind."
In January, the St. Michaels Town Commission sent a letter in support of Seymour's request. The board of directors at the St. Michaels Museum at St. Mary's Square, from where Frank Downing leads Douglass walking tours, also voted unanimously to recommend the dedication.
The following month, however, the Talbot County Council balked when asked to support the request. While Council President Philip Carey Foster and Councilman Corey W. Pack supported the request, they were overruled by Councilmen Dirck K. Bartlett, Thomas G. Duncan and Levin F. "Buddy" Harrison IV. Bartlett and Duncan questioned naming a road for a man who was dragged down that road in chains, while Harrison agreed with a constituent who testified that Douglass lived in St. Michaels for only three years, whereas the Bay Hundred area has its own extensive history.
Douglass taught himself to read, became an abolitionist, famed orator, journalist, editor and author held in great regard in the United States and around the world.