Sherman Howell

March 23, 2003|By Jason Song

Sherman Howell grew up in the segregated town of Arlington, Tenn., participated in civil rights marches in the 1960s and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. When he was shopping for a home in 1971, he was looking for a place "that represented equality and respect."

When Howell arrived in Columbia, he called off the search.

"This is the place for me," said Howell, vice president of the African American Coalition of Howard County. "This is the type of place we were fighting and marching for."

Because of the county's progressive attitudes toward race and equality, Howell, a Harper's Choice resident, has stayed.

Howard County "is by far the most advanced place on earth in terms of justice and equality," he said. "You just don't find the kind of relationship that exists between black and white in other parts of the country."

He also has lived in Washington. Still, Howell, who works as a software engineer for the Federal Department of Insurance, has engaged in healthy debates over racial issues in the county.

He joined a coalition last year to try to convert the former Harriet Tubman High School, the county's first African-American high school, into a community center. Howell, 59, also argued against changing school district boundaries in 2001 and protested in 1998 when a group tried to honor Howard County residents who died fighting for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

While Howell does not think such incidents are equivalent to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, "we still have to ensure that we have the best policies here possible," he said.

"We've got to make sure things don't backslide."

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