Civil Rights Groups Call For Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge To Be Renamed Due To Namesake’s Slavery Ties

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Civil Rights groups are calling on the Maryland state government to rename the Francis Scott Key Bridge because Key was reportedly a slave owner. 

The Caucus of African American Leaders, which includes members of prominent organizations like the NAACP and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, unanimously voted to recommend renaming the bridge. NBC News reports that they sent their recommendations to Democratic Gov. Wes Moore and the General Assembly to consider.

Following the collapse of the bridge in late March, federal and state leaders are considering various options for rebuilding it, including renaming it. Since it was built in 1977, millions of vehicles have crossed the bridge every year, and it has served as an important transportation route. 

Key, best known for writing what became “The Star Spangled Banner” during the 1814 Battle of Baltimore, had what the National Park Service has called a “conflicted relationship with slavery.” According to NBC News Key also owned slaves and referred to Black Americans as “a distinct and inferior race. which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” 

The caucus hopes to remove Key’s name from the bridge and replace it with that of Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, a pioneer in the state. First elected in 1971 as a Democrat, Mitchell represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District for 16 years and was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He died in 2007.  

Caucus convener Carl O. Snowden said Mitchell “spent a life, his entire life, creating a bridge between the African American community and literally the larger society.” 

“Every single public structure that is built to honor someone is being done using all taxpayers’ money,” Snowden said. “Whoever the bridge is named after should be somebody that all taxpayers can respect.”

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