Most fascinating African-Americans

portraits of Havre de Grace, Baltimore

Books of the Region

February 13, 2005|By James H. Bready | James H. Bready,Special to the Sun

African American Leaders of Maryland: A Portrait Gallery

By Suzanne E. Chapelle and Glenn O. Phillips. Maryland Historical Society. 155 pages. $20 softbound

Here, in Maryland's fourth century, whom would you single out as its most illustrious African-American? Judging from the cover of their new book (released during Black History Month), authors Suzanne E. Chapelle and Glenn O. Phillips believe that person is none other than statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895).

Compiling their portrait gallery of Maryland's most fascinating individuals of African descent, the authors limited the total to 45 and excluded anyone still alive in 2000 or whose likeness does not exist. The lineup extends from George "Father Divine" Baker to N. Louise Young, M.D., a chief of obstetrics at Provident Hospital. It includes those who will be familiar to most readers (Benjamin Banneker, Lillie Jackson, Clarence Mitchell) and others who will probably be unknown (John T. Quander, Augustus Walley, Daniel B. Warner).

Yet for many readers, this book's greatest value may be its prefatory 41-page summary of the black experience here. It hasn't been good -- Maryland's long unwillingness to ratify the 15th Amendment, no African-American in the General Assembly until 1954, and public school segregation in some counties as late as 1966.

Anyone for irony? In the 1790s, the African-American painter for whom rich Baltimoreans sat was Joshua Johnson; today, his portraits fetch huge money. Yet, this book has to pass him by -- there is no known picture of Johnson.

Inquisition

By Jack Eddinger. AuthorHouse. 273 pages. $29.25

It is 1956; Adlai E. Stevenson runs against Dwight D. Eisenhower, and in northeast Pennsylvania a veteran Democratic congressman named Zachary Taylor Harris is up to his earlobes in hanky-panky. To win re-election, big, Zach figures he'll have to deal with the FBI and the underworld, idealists and witch hunters. Plus wife, plus mistress.

Eyes closed, Jack Eddinger could work this terrain -- originally a Pennsylvanian, he has been a newspaperman (Evening Sun, Washington Star), City Hall press secretary and Capitol Hill aide. In his novel's saturnine take on public life, the national motto could be "Outta My Way."

Eddinger pictures an FBI director and a witness with a Communist background (not quite named Hoover and Hiss); his Lenape (Lehigh) Valley steel colossus is Bessemer, not Bethlehem. A few pages out -- amid the rivers of booze, the manuals for corruption -- and a reader of Inquisition may need both hands, holding onto his or her soul.

One Heartbeat: The History of the Boys' Latin School, 1847-1960

By Holly Lewis Maddux. Boys' Latin, 141 pages, $45 oversize.

High among the distinctions that alumni like to boast about for the Boys' Latin School of Maryland is: oldest survivor. Boys' Latin was started in 1847, and no other nondenominational Baltimore private school has lasted that long. True, the name itself has varied: Professor Topping's Classical School, the Classical and Mathematical School, Dunham's School, George G. Carey's School, for starters; and let's not go into a lather about location changes, between the original downtown Washington Place and the Lake Avenue campus of today.

Boys' Latin's long past is now readily available in Holly Lewis Maddux's school history, One Heartbeat. Extensively researched and evocatively illustrated, the book records events to 1960. That was most recent occasion when Boys' Latin faced imminent extinction (not from the financial collapse that had done in many a rival during the old for-profit years, but from a municipal program of urban renewal at Boys' Latin's then-Mount Royal Plaza site).

Maddux relishes the association with many an established Baltimore name: Marbury, Shriver, Obrecht, Hollyday, Shipley, Williams, Cooper, Hahn, O'Connor, Morris and Read. Today's student body may have little Latin and less Greek, but oh, the lasting memory of 1933-34, when Boys' Latin was the private-school champion of Baltimore in football, basketball and lacrosse, all three.

Besides archival sources, Maddux interviewed dozens of alumni. What scenes linger in old men's minds? Sports, again and again. Boys' Latin was big in six-man football, and at one time or another was strong in baseball, gymnastics, crew, track and field. Other schools, other statistics -- but Boys' Latin once counted 91 percent of its students playing varsity or junior varsity.

Havre de Grace: A Portrait

Photographs by Irna Jay. Sparrowhawk, 59 pages. $29.95.

Havre de Grace, considerably older than Baltimore, has remained a bay town. For a while, a racetrack brought it grungy notice. Later, it enticed travelers to stop by.

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