Baltimore City Council

Baltimore City Council


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Baltimore was one of the few cities in which Blacks held high public offices. This was because

Maryland after the Civil War did not deny Blacks the right to vote as many states did



Baltimore City Council


President Elected at-large to a four year term of office, the President presides over and is a voting member of the Council. In addition, this officer serves as president of the Board of Estimates. Vice-President By a majority vote, the Council chooses from among its members a Vice President, who chairs Council meetings in the President’s absence. Members In each of Baltimore’s six Councilmanic Districts, three representatives are elected to the Council for a four year term.

To qualify for a position on the Council, a person must be above the age of twenty-one, a registered voter, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Baltimore and the district.

If a position on the Council is vacated, a new representative from the Councilmanic District is elected by a majority vote of the Council.

City Council’s History

The Beginning of Baltimoretown

In 1729, the Maryland General Assembly authorized the erection of Baltimoretown on the north side of the Patapsco and appointed a group of commissioners to govern. During this time, Catholics were denied the right to vote in Maryland as they were in many of the colonies.

In 1797, the General Assembly granted a charter that created the office of Mayor and City Council. The Council was divided into 2 branches, and membership required heavy property qualifications. It was not until 1826 that the Constitution of Maryland was changed to allow Jewish citizens the right to vote or hold public office.

First Black Elected To The Council In 1890 

Harry Sythe Cummings was elected to the City Council of Baltimore in 1890 and became the first Black elected official in the state of Maryland. For forty years after 1890, six different Black Republicans won elections for the Baltimore City Council in 13 of 18 elections. Baltimore was one of the few cities in which Blacks held high public offices. This was because Maryland after the Civil War did not deny Blacks the right to vote as many states did. This was attributable to the population distribution of Blacks in the city. Baltimore Obtained Home Rule In 1918

Before 1918, the General Assembly enacted all local laws affecting the city. Since 1918, the Mayor and City Council have had this power.

In the November election of 1922, the voters through petition replaced a two branch council with a unicameral one. Baltimore abolished its old system of small wards, replacing them with much larger districts. Today there are six council districts, each represented by 3 council members.

First Woman Appointed to the Council In 1937 

Not until after women had the right to vote for nearly 20 years was the first woman appointed to serve in the City Council. This woman, Ella Bailey was appointed to her husband’s term of office. In 1943, she became the first woman elected to the City Council. During the thirties and forties no African Americans were elected to the City Council.

Although many African American voters gradually joined the Democratic Party after World War I, their numbers were not sufficient to regain a City Council seat until the 1955 election victory of Walter Dixon for the 4th District. Since 1955 African American representation has continued through the present. In 1991, redistricting enabled eight African Americans to become elected to the City Council. 1967 and 1987 Are First For Women

Prior to the 1967 election of Victorine Adams [photo above left], only four women served on the City Council. All four had been appointed to complete the terms of their husbands. Of these four women two ran for office and won. It was not until Victorine Adams that a woman was elected to the City Council without being appointed. Since the inception of the City Council, only 13 women have ever won election to the council. Today, seven of those women are currently serving on the council.

In 1987, Mary Pat Clarke was the first woman to run citywide and win the elected office of President of the City Council.

For 250 years in Baltimore, women, African Americans, Catholics, and Jews were all denied the right to vote and to serve on the Council. Today, they are all represented on the City Council and work together toward a better Baltimore for all.



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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

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

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated !9 March 2010



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