Dorchester County 2015 Historical Freedom Day

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The Historical Freedom Shrine in Hurlock celebrates the ten men who worked to outlaw discrimination against minorities in voting laws in the state of Maryland.

NORTH DORCHESTER—There is a stone marker, a monument, on the road between Preston and Hurlock. It sits encircled by a chain link fence, forlorn, by the side of the road. It must not be very significant, right?

Until 1985 in Dorchester County, all five County Commissioners were elected on a “general ticket,” with the members coming from the Cambridge area. It had been done this way for more than 100 years during which time none of the County Council members belonged to a minority group.

From the 1950s through the 1970s there were new laws passed at the federal level outlawing discrimination against minorities, so that rules that discriminated against minorities were abolished. That the election of County Commissioners in Maryland violated these principles was harder to identify, so the situation took longer to fix.

In order to eradicate this type of discrimination the North Dorchester Democratic Club was formed, with 10 influential men involved. They determined that the commissioners could be elected by district. Before, the five council members were the five people who got the most votes from the entire county, meaning that they all came from the most populated area (Cambridge), and belonged to the majority.

Now there is a council member for each area of the county occupied by approximately 6,000 people. Now Dorchester County Council members represent the interests of where they live – city, industry, farms and water resources. People who represent minorities can be elected to the Council.

The Freedom Marker was set to honor the men who worked to level the political playing field for minorities in the County. Now there is an initiative to remember this marker, the men that worked to equalize the vote and the significance throughout the state and country.

On Nov. 3, Election Day, Historical Freedom Day was celebrated with a reception at the Hurlock train station. There were public commendations for the 10 individuals that boldly took a stand more than 30 years ago. In addition there was a guided tour to the historic Freedom Shrine.

The celebration of this event serves as a small way to honor these men who worked for fairness. It is important that the citizens of Dorchester understand what a significant role was played and how meaningful the changes that these gentlemen brought about were to Dorchester County and all of Maryland.

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