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April (2002), 1,000 Morgan State students abandoned the classroom to clog the office hallway

of Delegate Rawlings in a brief non-violent sit-in. There were harsh and unkind words



The Dilemma of Pete Rawlings

Reconsidering Our History & Our Aims

By Rudolph Lewis


I have no intimate knowledge of Pete Rawlings, though he has recently, in some irate quarters, become a black villain. I have indeed heard rumors of his swagger in Annapolis. In the legislature, I'm told, he  has his finger on the money button. Some of his detractors say he has been bought by big money interests. But political wags standing in the cold always utter such outrageousness.

The influential Appropriations Committee chairman, Delegate Howard "Pete" Rawlings, is thought to be the most powerful African American in the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. Delegate Rawlings by the measure of insiders, is a kingmaker: Mayor O'Malley elected to his high office on the black vote would not have gotten there without Pete's endorsement. That assertion, if we must be honest, sounds as wild in its reality as a John Henry tale.

The Honorable Peter Rawlings, I have concluded, is more to be pitied than scorned, which probably more often than not is derived from envy or anger. When I saw him on TV, he was wearing a skull cap. I was nearly shocked by the sight, thinking that possibly one of the most moderate-conservative black politicians in Maryland had joined The Nation of Islam. I asked around and was informed that Pete was ill, seriously not well, and suffering from a near-fatal illness.

Some humorists suggested his illness came from continually straddling the line, holding himself aloft like one in a high-wire act. To obtain his personal promised land, he feared leaning either left, or too far to the right. He miraculously, some believe, succeeded with a sophistication  far beyond the failures of his black political predecessors.

The health facts are much more dire. Brother Pete lost his hair from radiation treatments, thus the cap. So my heart goes out for his suffering. For in addition he has tried to do what no black has done before in Annapolis. Many will think rightly he is a man much to be admired in how he has learned to play the game.

Last April (2002), 1,000 Morgan State students abandoned the classroom to clog the office hallway of Delegate Rawlings in a brief non-violent sit-in. There were harsh and unkind words. And Brother Pete was not in good temper. According to a SUN reporter, Morgan student leaders blamed "Rawlings for eliminating library money from the capital budget while negotiating deals with Gov. Parris Glendening to add buildings to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County."

I do not know the accuracy of the charges leveled by these militant and unhappy Morgan students. What seems clear is that Brother Pete suffers from self-induced historical amnesia. And what is even more terrific is that his heart seems in the wrong place. One would have thought he would have embraced these students and gave them the truth of his position. But from reports, he felt quite put off by their presence, as if they were not exercising a right. That's a terrible way  for him to respond to his own and to youthful idealism..

There are black men in Annapolis, however, who have not forgotten their roots and where their best feelings should lie. They have not forgotten why we fought and struggled to get black men and women elected to the legislative branch of the Maryland government. Morgan has a history of not getting fair consideration.

According to a SUN report, Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a Baltimore Democrat and 1950 Morgan graduate who was among a group of students who came to Annapolis in 1947, said, "I think it is wonderful . . . these kids are expressing their deep-held feelings." The Senate version of the budget maintains the Morgan library funding.

That same SUN report quoted Delegate Tony E. Fulton, who recalled barricading the state Senate building: "It was the same issue when I was a student in 1969. . . . It needs to be done. It makes you proud of the students and your school."

I too was at Morgan during the late 1960s. President Jenkins was then the president of the college. Morgan was then getting the short shrift with respect to funding. The middle-class plot then, I believe, was to integrate Morgan with white students so that the legislature would care more about the institution and thus assure the future of black students. Many of us then didn't like this conservative, though well meaning, formulation.

We wanted dignity and integrity. We wanted Morgan to be black. We wanted black consciousness to be the norm. We wanted black excellence. We wanted a black studies program. We wanted the abolition of the ROTC program on campus, which fed the war machine in Vietnam.

(Back then all freshmen and sophomore men were required to take courses in ROTC and wear the hand me down ugly green uniforms and clumsy black shoes and clean World War I rifles.) The state demanded of us sacrifice and a song, yet thought little of our dreams.

We wanted an intellectual institution that had more than just a black face.

The old Soper Library was then in the building that now houses the radio station. It was exceedingly crowded, hot, and musty. But I loved it. Yet the country I came from there was yet nothing so grand. The present library, a modern structure, was built in the early 1970s, I believe. And I am sure Morgan administrators (real heroes) went through hell to get that funding, which many say was inadequate and Morgan did not get a first class structure.

Thirty-five years later, the lopsided funding ratio for Morgan, essentially, it seems, has not changed. Morgan still gets the short shrift from the state legislature. To be a great institution, to develop doctoral programs, Morgan needs a great library. Pete Rawlings, a Morgan alumnus with a campus dormitory named for him, knows Morgan's historical struggle, though seemingly blinded by this present largesse to other schools. Of course he has in the past sent some money Morgan's way and thus his name on one of the buildings.

Pete's insistence on "sticking to his decision," his cold  attitude towards Morgan students, seems totally out of character for a delegate who supposedly represents black interests in Annapolis. We know the state is strapped for cash. But should not we give to those who have more dire needs? Must we always kowtow to power, security, and comfort?

Brother Pete, it seems, has gone beyond "blackness." He is a professional politician. Being a powerful  man in Annapolis is his career, his job. From his actions, we must conclude he has stepped outside of the black liberation struggle. He has become integrated and reconciled to the present social order. Our slave ancestors would be mystified!

A most serious lesson must be learned by the Pete Rawlings dilemma. A black-face politician is no longer sufficient to assure that black interests get respect and sympathy in the halls of the state legislature. The name of the games in the halls of the legislature is expediency.

Can we in good conscious continue to vote for men and women to hold office who continually trade our dreams for personal interests, power, and opportunity? Our need for political sophistication and astuteness at the polls and in how we organize for power is even now much more urgent than ever.

Men like Pete Rawlings, men with power, only respond to power. Righteousness has little to do with their decisions. For the professional black politician, the days of racial sentimentalism are at and end.. 

Those who most need Morganthe children of the black working class and the poorregrettably do not have sufficient political clout to force the issue. Our communities are not organized to engage power and on the whole we do not vote. So we are shunned when money is tight or ignored when there is a plenty. Smart politicians know who butters their bread. And the Honorable Pete Rawlings ain't dumb. 

But let us not overly despair. Morgan will get its library, if not today, tomorrow. The quality of that library will nevertheless be questionable. More is needed from us. Morgan needs also black money (and lots of it) and black conscientious support. Our emphasis and our present aims must change with the times. Morgan  and its middle-class leaders must reach out to all sectors of our community to pressure black politicians and community leaders to advance the dreams of quality education and adequate funding for a quality black institution of higher learning. But it is doubtful that they too have any more courage than Pete.

posted April 2002

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HOWARD P. (PETE) RAWLINGS, Democrat, District 40, Baltimore City.

Lowe House Office Building, Room 131
84 College Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21401 - 1991
(410) 841-3407, (301) 858-3407
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3407 (toll free)


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Morgan and Howard Rawlings
by Editorial Staff
Baltimore Times
Originally posted 4/12/2002

The Maryland House Appropriations Committee should have given Morgan State University $3.1 million to help build a new library. According to sources at the Legislature, the panel had no problem fast-tracking last minute proposals for other schools. Chairman Rawlings felt otherwise.

It has been reported that the venerable chairman did a “dance,” as he was confronted by Morgan supporters. This seems to be beneath the dignity of his office and unfortunate.

However, recent verbal attacks on Del. Rawlings appear to go beyond anger or disappointment about Morgan’s library. He has been called everything from a sell-out, to an Uncle Tom, and a token...harsh words for the highest-ranking African American in the House of Delegates

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Pols Apart

By Wiley Hall III

Morgan State University students describe the campus' library as a dismal placecramped, dimly lit, and uncomfortable. They say many of the books there are obsolete. They say they are forced to go to libraries at other schools to get key reference materials assigned in their classes. They describe the library staff as valiant but overburdened, working against the odds to hold the place together.

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Howard Peters "Pete" Rawlings (1937–2003) was an American politician who was the first African American to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates. Rawlings was one of three delegates serving the 40th legislative district, which lies in the central, northwest section of Baltimore City.

Delegate Rawlings was born in Baltimore on March 17, 1937 to Howard Toussaint and Beatrice Peters Rawlings. His father worked as a custodian in a department store and then for U.S. Postal Service. Rawlings and his six brothers and sisters grew up in public housing, he graduated from Douglass High School, one of the three schools African Americans were allowed to attend prior to the Supreme Court Decision in Brown v. Board of Education. He earned a B.S. in mathematics from Morgan State College, an M.S. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and completed Ph.D. coursework at the University of Maryland.

Delegate Rawlings was a member of Maryland's House of Delegates from January 10, 1979 until his death on November 14, 2003. He was appointed chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 1992. In his years as chairman, Delegate Rawlings developed a reputation for integrity, dedication to his city, and a detailed knowledge of the state budget. He was in the forefront of reforming inner-city public schools, including requiring accountability from Baltimore school officials for lack of educational progress, waste of state funds, and allegations of fraud in spending those funds.

He co-sponsored legislation that banned racial profiling in Maryland and fought against Maryland Lottery drawings expanding to Sundays. He also played an instrumental role in securing funding for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. . . .

Less than a month before his death, Rawlings was named the national education Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). At the award ceremony in Baltimore, Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director said "Delegate Rawlings has been a long-time champion of expanding educational opportunities and access for all of Maryland's students. He has also been in the national forefront of insisting upon greater accountability from our education system, both of teacher performance and student achievement, as well as focusing on closing the achievement gap among minority students. In demanding resources for results, his overriding concern has always been focused on best helping students succeed".

Delegate Rawlings succumbed to cancer on November 14, 2003.—Wikipedia

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

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Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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