ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County’s Public Facilities and Spaces Commission has issued its report contextualizing the history of namesakes for buildings, parks, and other county-owned spaces. The 14-member Commission was chaired by Howard County Historical Society Executive Director Shawn Gladden, and brought together members from a variety of organizations and disciplines. To view the report, please click here.
The current landscape of our country demands that we address and confront the ugly truths of our past and present, and that includes ensuring the namesakes of our facilities and spaces reflect today’s values. The Commission’s report is a vital resource as we face our history, learn from it, and move forward with an honest understanding of who we’ve chosen to honor by naming our spaces after them.
Members of the commission were responsible for:
- Reviewing the history surrounding the namesake for public facilities and spaces to determine if the namesake participated in or encouraged the oppression of African Americans, indigenous Americans, and other individuals of color and contributed to the history of systemic racism and similar biases;
- Report on named public facilities and spaces, including and not limited to:
- County-owned streets;
- County-owned buildings, including schools, libraries, and other facilities;
- County-owned parks;
- County neighborhoods; and
- Statues in County-owned parks.
- And recommend any names that should be changed, contextualized, or added for consideration to future naming of assets.
The Public Spaces Naming Commission was a wonderful way to meet and engage with members of the Howard County Community interested in bringing fresh new perspectives to our county's history. Each Commission member brought a perspective and a passion to the work that was essential for completion. It was also a great opportunity to work with colleagues in the Historic Preservation Community who saw this as an opportunity to research people and places in our county with much needed inclusive narratives and balanced interpretations. Our volunteer researchers were as dedicated as any that I have worked with in my professional career and their efforts should be applauded.
The Commission had two sub-committees: Criteria and Research. The Criteria Committee developed a rubric for each of the subjects, to help determine whether they should be considered for renaming or contextualization. The rubric factored: participation in slavery, involvement in systemic racism, support for oppression, involvement in supremacist agenda, violation of the Howard County human right laws, and whether the namesake includes racist of offensive terminology.
“It has been a pleasure to be member of a dynamic, Public Spaces, Naming Commission,” said Criteria Committee Member Dr. Denise Boston. This report is a product of a diverse group of scholars, historians, and dedicated Howard Countians committed to broaching complex questions about the county’s historical past and ways to implement the lessons learned, now and for generations to come.”
“The team was very cognizant about the need to present information to the public for input and transparency and I truly appreciated the multiple perspectives,” said Criteria Committee Member Towanda Brown. “The information provided by the research team provided great insight on little-known facts that allowed for great discussion. We don’t really know how much we don’t know until we have the opportunity to be involved in efforts such as these.”
The Research Committee determined the scope of work, including the development of Data Sheets for each location, identifying basic information, and the determination of whether locations were named after someone who participated in or encourage the oppression of African Americans, Indigenous Americans, and other individuals of color, and contributed to the history of systemic racism or similar biases. The Committee determined four categories of locations: buildings, libraries, parks and schools.
To view the final report, please click here. The Commission is also providing digital copies of all source material to the County so all resources can be accessed by the public.