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Historic Route 40 in Maryland was the setting for some civil rights struggles of the early 1960s

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Historic Route 40 in Maryland was the setting for some civil rights struggles of the early 1960s


Route 40 spans the nation from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Atlantic City, New Jersey, through parts of Maryland, to those of the Pacific off San Francisco, some 3,000-plus miles across the country’s midsection like a great macadam belt.

Its origins date to 1806, when an act of Congress signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson established what locals still call the National Road or Baltimore Pike. Its eastern leg stretched 750 miles from Baltimore, through Cumberland, to Vandalia, then the capital of Illinois, making it the country’s first interstate road.

Often compared to Rome’s ancient road Appian Way, it quickly became the major route over the Alleghenies and throbbed with traffic on horseback, stagecoaches and Conestoga wagons piled high with freight bound for eastern markets, passing dream-filled visionary pioneers heading westward.

But it was the sound of the steam whistle that sounded the death knell for the National Road. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built its line westward in the 1850s, and its freight and passengers quickly were diverted to trains that could travel between Baltimore and Wheeling, West Virginia, in just 16 hours, rather than days over a frequently mud-clogged road in spring and winter that often was frequented by drunken drivers and highwaymen.

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As the old road fell into a weed-choked highway, a victim of the rise of railroads, it was the invention and accessibility of the automobile 50 years later that revived it.

  • The Rev. Douglas B. Sands Sr. of Mount Airy returns to Aberdeen where he worked with other civil rights activists to desegregate restaurants in the early 1960s. Behind him is the site of the Redwood Inn, since demolished, where Sands and Caroline Ramsey, another activist who worked with him on the State Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations were confronted by an owner pointing a gun at them when they entered the well-known restaurant to test the segregation policy. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • Traffic whizzes by on Route 40 in Edgewood. Route 40,...

    Traffic whizzes by on Route 40 in Edgewood. Route 40, once the main artery for travelers from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, has been largely bypassed for long-distance travel in Maryland by newer highways such as Interstates 95 and 70. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • The New Ideal Diner, now a retail seafood business, had...

    The New Ideal Diner, now a retail seafood business, had desegregated before the major Freedom Ride in Dec. 1961 in which CORE civil rights activists challenged the Jim Crow holdouts on Route 40 between the..Delaware Memorial Bridge and Baltimore. This vintage 1952 Aberdeen diner, which replaced earlier ones on the site, closed in 2011. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • Traffic heads northeast into Harford County from Baltimore County during...

    Traffic heads northeast into Harford County from Baltimore County during morning rush hour on Route 40, which is also known as Pulaski Highway. The one-time main highway from the Mason-Dixon line to Washington D.C. was much more congested before Interstate 95 opened in 1963. (Amy Davis/ Staff photo)

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  • Janice Grant of Aberdeen, 90, an educator and civil rights...

    Janice Grant of Aberdeen, 90, an educator and civil rights leader, at home in Aberdeen, recalls the activists organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, whom she invited to her family’s home in Aberdeen to plan the Freedom Ride protests against segregated restaurants on Route 40 in 1961. Looking back on the many civil rights battles she was involved in, Grant recalls that her parents taught their children not to hate anyone, and added, “We couldn’t use the word “hate.” (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • Janice Grant of Aberdeen, 90, an educator and civil rights...

    Janice Grant of Aberdeen, 90, an educator and civil rights leader in Harford County where she was raised, welcomed activists from the Congress of Racial Equality to her family’s home in Aberdeen, pictured behind her, where they planned the Freedom Ride protests against segregated restaurants on Route 40 in 1961. Among the CORE field workers who gathered here was Michael Schwerner, who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while working on voter registration in Mississippi three years later. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • During a major Freedom Ride on Dec. 16, 1961, activists...

    During a major Freedom Ride on Dec. 16, 1961, activists hold a sit-in at an Aberdeen restaurant on Route 40 where a Jim Crow sign is visible at right. It reads: “We Reserve the right to serve Whom We Please.” (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

  • A police officer is present during a sit-in at an...

    A police officer is present during a sit-in at an Aberdeen restaurant on Dec. 16, 1961, organized by CORE to target still-segregated establishments along Route 40. Maryland restaurant owners resisting desegregation made sure that officers or state troopers were on hand to arrest demonstrators who refused to leave after being read the Trespass Act. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

  • Civil Rights protesters participating in CORE's Freedom Ride on Dec....

    Civil Rights protesters participating in CORE’s Freedom Ride on Dec. 16, 1961 targeting segregated dining establishments along Route 40, picket outside the Aberdeen Restaurant. Police were called when a local pro-segregation mob swarmed the demonstrators. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

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  • Students from up and down the Eastern seaboard joined the...

    Students from up and down the Eastern seaboard joined the Freedom Ride organized by CORE activists to challenge Route 40 restaurants that had still not desegregated in Cecil, Harford and Baltimore Counties. These activists are holding a sit-in at an Aberdeen restaurant. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

  • Freedom Riders, including many students, walk along Route 40 in...

    Freedom Riders, including many students, walk along Route 40 in Aberdeen to challenge the racial segregation still in effect at many restaurants. Organized by CORE, 500 to 700 demonstrators, both Black and white, targeted Jim Crow holdouts in Cecil, Harford and Baltimore Counties. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

  • The Mayflower Restaurant on Route 40 in Aberdeen, known in...

    The Mayflower Restaurant on Route 40 in Aberdeen, known in its day for live Maine lobsters, steaks and chops, was also known as a business clinging to Jim Crow laws. On Dec. 16, 1961, civil rights activists picket outside the Mayflower during a major Freedom Ride to challenge segregated restaurants in the Route 40 corridor from Baltimore to the Delaware state line. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

  • December 1961: A Congress of Racial Equality brochure distributed to...

    December 1961: A Congress of Racial Equality brochure distributed to Freedom Riders to “Help Complete the Job [to] End Racial Discrimination along US 40,” lists segregated restaurants for Freedom Riders to challenge, desegregated restaurants for Riders to patronize, and instructions on how to conduct non-violent sit-ins. (Congress of Racial Equality)

  • The Flying Clipper Restaurant and Cabins in Aberdeen was identified...

    The Flying Clipper Restaurant and Cabins in Aberdeen was identified by CORE as still segregated when civil rights activists planned their 1961 Freedom Ride to challenge Jim Crow restaurants on Route 40. It no longer resembles this postcard after conversion to a shopping plaza. (Courtesy of the Aberdeen Historical Museum)

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  • When Rayshad Beepath opened Ray's Caribbean American Food in 2017,...

    When Rayshad Beepath opened Ray’s Caribbean American Food in 2017, he was unaware that his restaurant building, once known as the Sportsman’s Grill, was one of the segregated restaurants on Route 40 in Aberdeen picketed by Freedom Riders in1961. Beepath, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, is working with local leaders and the Harford Civil Rights Project, based at Harford Community College, to obtain funding for an exhibition at his restaurant about the civil rights protests on Route 40 that helped bring about the passage of the state’s Public Accommodations Act. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • The fight to end segregation in the early 1960s along...

    The fight to end segregation in the early 1960s along commercial Route 40 stretched from Baltimore County to the Delaware line, but Aberdeen was a hotbed for civil rights actions, due to its numerous restaurants and motels and the active Aberdeen Proving Ground base. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • The proliferation of roadside motels has declined since the heyday...

    The proliferation of roadside motels has declined since the heyday of Route 40. Now shuttered, the Holly Hill Motel on Route 40, three miles south of Aberdeen, once advertised “television, beauty rest mattresses and private tile baths.” (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

  • Before Interstate 95 was built, there was more demand for...

    Before Interstate 95 was built, there was more demand for motels along Route 40, once the only highway route between Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, DC. Some of the modest one-story roadside motels remain, such as the Economy Inn on the portion of Route 40 known as S. Philadelphia Road in Aberdeen. (Amy Davis/Staff photo)

But as a main artery of commerce, the segment of Route 40 that passes through Maryland, was also the setting for a dark and ugly past in the early 1960s.

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African Americans traveling by car in the state, especially north of Baltimore, were not welcome at diners, restaurants, hotels or motels.

In those days, before Interstate 95 was completed and segregation was still the law of the land, Route 40 was the major route for diplomats and people of color traveling between New York and Washington.

Early in the spring of 1961, William Fitzjohn, charge d’affaires for Sierre Leone in Washington, en route to Pittsburgh, stopped with his driver at a Howard Johnson’s near Hagerstown for dinner and because both men were Black, they were denied service.

This American snub, and others like it, caused an international furor.

President John F. Kennedy was outraged by what had transpired and received Fitzjohn in the White House while the president of Howard Johnson’s apologized.

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In June 1961, Adam Malick Sow, Chad’s ambassador to the United States was on his way to Washington to present his credentials to the president and was refused service when he stopped for a meal in Edgewood.

In September of that year, President Kennedy sent a telegram to 200 Maryland civic leaders seeking “voluntary cooperation for an immediate end to segregation in restaurants and other places of public service on U.S. Route 40 in Maryland.”

Maryland Gov. J. Millard Tawes also apologized for the incidents and supported the president’s position, while suggesting that African diplomats should select restaurants with an open-door policy.

“It is a terrible reflection on this state that this thing [rebuffs to diplomats] should be repeated time and time again after the president urged us to correct this condition,” said former Gov. Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin.

The Rev. Douglas B. Sands, a civil rights activist, who retired as pastor of White Rock Independent Methodist Episcopal Church in Sykesville, was at the time executive secretary of the state Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations.

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One day he and a fellow protester, Caroline Ramsay, found themselves in the uncomfortable position of staring down the barrel of a gun held by Anthony J. “Tony” Konstant, owner of the Redwood Inn in Aberdeen, as they attempted to enter the restaurant.

“It was a very busy time along the road in those days,” Sands, 89, who retired from his church in 2019, recalled recently.

“He told us we weren’t wanted and to get out and he came to us with the gun raised,” Sands said. “And he was so infuriated because my companion Caroline was a white woman. This was unique for us because no one had done that before, and we left.”

Then the racist changed and became a supporter of desegregation.

“Tony had a change of heart later and he believed in what we were trying to do in getting a state accommodation law that would allow service to be given to everyone,” Sands said. “And I never had a reason to be fearful.”

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Konstant became a leader in the effort to get restauranteurs along the highway to integrate.

“It is not an easy thing to go up to a Negro and tell him you won’t serve him,” Konstant told The Evening Sun in 1961. “It is morally wrong and Christianly wrong. There is a new Negro emerging, and we have to recognize him. … I’m not bitter about CORE’s role in the thing. Let’s face it, we never would have done it if they had not applied pressure. They were fighting for a principle.”

He had visited more than 35 restaurants and told the newspaper: “What I found was a softening attitude. But at most places the operators said integrating was the only decent, moral thing to do, and that they were willing if everyone else was.”

He added: “If I had to do it all over again I would have quietly desegregated and that would have been that. It’s the only sensible thing to do.”

For his efforts in playing a major role in integrating Route 40  and his civil rights activism, Konstant received a letter of thanks from U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

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Freedom Riders targeted Route 40 establishments, and 47 restaurants between the Delaware Memorial Bridge and Baltimore agreed to desegregate by November 1961.

Janice E. Grant, 90, a retired Harford County public school teacher and civil rights activist, held planning meetings in the living room of her home at 430 S. Law St. in Aberdeen. “A group of Freedom Riders came down from New York and we used to hold meetings in a church on Thorn Creek, but then the Klan started burning Black churches, and I said we couldn’t meet there, so they came to my house at 11:30 the first night.”

Grant was arrested after trying to integrate a restaurant in Edgewood. She was joined in her protests by her husband, Woodrow Benjamin Grant, a former serviceman.

“We sat everywhere we could along Route 40,” she said. “Afraid? I was never afraid. I had driven alone in Mississippi when they were killing people and I had been beaten badly.”

Additional pressure was applied when James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, better known as CORE, told the newspaper the restaurants that were balking at serving Black citizens were facing a Dec. 15 deadline.

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“If not, we shall feel free to take necessary action,” he said in a statement.

CORE had published a list of more than 30 businesses between Maryland and Delaware that continued to refuse service to African Americans.

In early December 1961, more than 500 Freedom Riders staged an anti-discrimination demonstration along the highway, with 14 protesters being arrested, including James Peck, one of the original Freedom Riders.

The activism of the Route 40 protesters finally led to the passage of the state Public Accommodation Act in 1963 — the first such law passed by a state below the Mason-Dixon Line —  that went into effect that year and effectively outlawed segregation in Maryland. The act was upheld by a referendum in November 1964.

It went into effect weeks before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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In 1963, Sands resigned from the commission and accepted a job as special protocol officer with the U.S. State Department under Angier Biddle Duke, and later held posts during the 1970s with the Howard County chapter of the NAACP. In the 1980s he served in the cabinet of Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes.

Konstant, who was 87 when he died in 2011, later became the co-owner of the landmark Williamsburg Inn in White Marsh — located where else, but along historic Route 40.

Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis and Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.



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Maryland

'Ghost gun' maker agrees to cease sales to Maryland residents as part of lawsuit settlement

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'Ghost gun' maker agrees to cease sales to Maryland residents as part of lawsuit settlement


A major manufacturer of ghost guns agreed, as part of a settlement with the city of Baltimore, to stop selling its untraceable firearms to residents of Maryland.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced on Wednesday that the city had reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought against Nevada-based Polymer80, which makes so-called “ghost gun” kits in the U.S.

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According to the company’s website, it specializes in parts kits containing firearm parts, which includes unfinished receivers used to make privately made firearms.

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“Ghost guns” on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department. (AP Photo / Haven Daley / File / AP Newsroom)

Baltimore officials said Polymer80 falsely classified its kits as “non-firearms,” and ultimately, many of their products ended up in the hands of minors and convicted felons.

“Nine out of 10 homicides in Baltimore City are committed with guns,” Scott said. “As I have promised, the city is using every tool at its disposal to address the epidemic of gun violence we face, and our comprehensive approach is finally seeing success in driving down violence.”

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As part of the settlement, Baltimore will receive $1.2 million in damages from Polymer80.

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Polymer80 Ghost Guns

Polymer80 80% frames for Glock Inc. pistols. (Bing Guan / Bloomberg via Getty Images / File / Getty Images)

The gun part manufacturer will also be permanently prohibited from advertising in Maryland or selling ghost guns to state residents.

Additionally, firearms dealers in neighboring states that sell Polymer80 products are not permitted to sell ghost guns to Maryland, and must cease all customer support to Maryland while providing quarterly reports to Baltimore, showing every sale of ghost guns to neighboring states.

Baltimore officials said the settlement terms “account for the most expansive and strictest” terms to this point in any lawsuit brought by jurisdictions across the U.S., against ghost gun manufacturers.

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Baltimore Skyline

Baltimore, Md., skyline (Edwin Remsberg / VWPics / Universal Images Group via Getty Images / File / Getty Images)

“We must hold everyone who has a hand in this violence accountable, from those who choose to pull the trigger, all the way up to the gun dealers and manufacturers responsible for the flow of guns into our city,” Scott said. “This settlement – and the statement it sends about the harmful impact of these ghost guns – is a critical victory for the effort to confront gun violence in our communities.”

The city partnered with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence when filing lawsuits against Polymer80 and Hanover Armory in 2022, after an increase in ghost guns appearing on the streets of Baltimore and in the hands of minors.

Polymer80 did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the settlement.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

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The case against Hanover Armory was not part of the settlement and is expected to go to trial in October 2024.

City officials said police seized 462 ghost guns in 2023, and so far this year, the Baltimore Police Department has seized 43 ghost guns, or 30% more than this time last year.



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Maryland failed to send 107,000 property reassessment notices on time, potentially costing counties millions

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Maryland failed to send 107,000 property reassessment notices on time, potentially costing counties millions


More than 100,000 property owners in Maryland were not properly notified of their reassessments in January, delaying a time period to appeal and potentially costing local governments millions in property tax revenue.

One-third of Maryland’s 2 million property accounts were reassessed at the end of 2023, leading to sharp climbs in assessed property values for the second year in a row.

The State Department of Assessments and Taxation, or SDAT, is required by law to send notices of the reassessments by Jan. 30. This year, an error with the agency’s vendor resulted in 107,000 notices that went unsent, according to a statement from SDAT Director Michael Higgs.

State officials said they are working to address the issue to ensure property owners still have the allowed 45 days to appeal and that they pay their property taxes later this year.

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“It’s just a very unfortunate mistake,” said Sen. Guy Guzzone, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

He said legislation that the Senate and its lawyers are crafting to fix the issue is expected to be “on solid ground” legally to require the new property values to go into effect despite the missed notification window. That bill is still being developed. Without the solution, legislative analysts have pegged the potential lost revenue to counties at $250 million, Guzzone said.

Property taxes are a primary funding source for local governments, making it possible to spend on everything from education and local public transit. In Baltimore County, the taxes make up about 45% of the $2.5 billion general fund revenue in the current 2024 fiscal year, according to county budget documents.

Higgs said those who missed their notices should receive them in the coming weeks. Those property owners will then have the full 45-day period to appeal to SDAT, he said.

“The legislation will ensure that the state reassessment can be completed fairly and accurately and that all appropriate revenues are collected,” Higgs said in the statement.

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Higgs’ office did not respond to questions about where the 107,000 properties are located across the state or whether the director would be available for an interview. His statement said the unsent notices were the result of a printing and mailing error by a vendor, the League for People with Disabilities. That vendor has been paid about $151,000 so far this year and $2.1 million in the last decade for SDAT services, according to Maryland’s spending transparency portal.

Statewide, total assessed value on the 767,226 residential and commercial properties rose 23.4% for 2024 — a jump from 20.6% on another third of Maryland properties in 2023.

In Baltimore City, the average 19.4% increase on homes and 16% increase on commercial properties were both below the statewide average of 25.6% and 17.6%, respectively. In Baltimore County, the residential increases were higher — 26.2% — while the increases on commercial properties were lower, at 14.4%.

State law caps the taxable portion of any property assessment increase at 10% annually. Many local governments have adopted further restrictions, like Baltimore City and Baltimore County’s 4% cap on taxable assessments annually.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat who is also the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, in a statement highlighted the need for local governments to receive the higher property tax revenues from those reassessments.

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“This news is alarming, but we are thankful that legislative leaders have already signaled their intentions to take swift action on this issue,” he said. “It’s critical we ensure local jurisdictions receive their fair share of revenues so that we can remain focused on delivering the core services that our shared residents rely on and expect.”

A spokesperson for Olszewski did not have information about how many properties the problem affected in the county. A spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, a Democrat, did not return an immediate request for comment Thursday.

Guzzone said it was not clear when the Maryland General Assembly, which is in session through April 8, may consider the legislation to fix the deadline issue.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, in a statement indicated lawmakers will also look at potential changes at the agency in charge of assessments to prevent similar problems in the future.

“We are still collecting the details on the full extent of this issue,” Jones said. “We take the effects of the delayed assessments very seriously, and the House is looking at all our options to ensure that our counties are not left to deal with the potential revenue shortages. As members of my leadership team have suggested, we will also look at reforms to SDAT, so this will not happen again.”

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore talks crime, education, healthcare and more on FOX 5

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore talks crime, education, healthcare and more on FOX 5


Maryland Gov. Wes Moore visited the FOX 5 studios on Thursday to talk about his administration’s work on crime, education, and healthcare.

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Moore also discussed his relationship with former Gov. Larry Hogan who recently announced that he will run for U.S. Senate.

The Governor also spoke about President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection bid, and the winning ways of the Orioles and Ravens!

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Maryland governor declares crime fighting top priority in State of the State speech

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