Group wants to rename collapsed bridge in Baltimore once it’s rebuilt

The cleanup continues for the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, and one group says it should be renamed when it is rebuilt.

The Caucus of African American Leaders is requesting Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and the General Assembly to rename the bridge in honor of Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, the first Black congressman elected to the U.S. House of Representative from Maryland.

The group said the bridge should not be named after the writer of the national anthem, who was a slave holder and who the group said was against abolition.

Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” while he was a prisoner aboard a British ship in the Port of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

He grew up on a slaveholding plantation in Maryland and owned at least six enslaved individuals himself. He did free several of them eventually.

His relationship with the slavery is complicated. He opposed the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and as an attorney, he defended enslaved people seeking their freedom. But he also represented slaveholders hoping to regain their runaway “property.”

While Key opposed abolition, he supported the idea of sending freed Black men and women to Africa. He helped establish the American Colonization Society, which started a colony on the west coast of Africa that became the independent nation of Liberia.

The group is also calling to rename a bridge in Dorchester County named after Sen. Fredrick C. Malkus Jr. The group says he was resistant to desegregation during the civil rights movement

The group proposed renaming the bridge after civil rights leader Gloria Richardson.

WTOP reached out to Gov. Wes Moore’s office for comment. In an emailed statement, the governor said: “I am laser-focused on providing closure to these families, clearing the channel, and rebuilding the bridge.”

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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