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Martin Luther King Day county holiday in 1994

Martin Luther King Day county holiday in 1994 Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


Martin Luther King Day official holiday in 1994


CUMBERLAND Confronted by representatives of the Allegany County NAACP complaining about recent incidents of racism in Allegany County, and a poor minority hiring record in county government, the Allegany County Commissioners agreed Monday to make Martin Luther King Day an official county holiday in 1994.

Members of the NAACP's executive committee joined NAACP president Rev. Harry Bunch in the occasionally contentious meeting in Allegany County offices. The meeting was prompted by "the recent discovery of racist graffiti on the C&0 Canal tow-path and a racist cartoon that had been distributed in parts of Cumberland.

People were ready to react violently to both of these (incidents)," said Jean Beckward, one of three executive-committee members attending the meeting.

Susan Jones, also of the executive committee, said area minorities feel race relations have not improved during the commissioners' first three years in office.

“There are black people out there who are tired of getting shafted and they are blaming it on one, two, three," she said, pointing to the commissioners.

The NAACP officials noted the lack of a MLK holiday as one of the most visible signs of a "pathetic" racial situation in the county, saying Allegany County is one of only two counties in Maryland without a holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

"I think it's a slap in the face to the black community," Ms. Beckward said.

All three commissioners expressed support for the holiday, but they said county employees have resisted efforts to close county government without providing an additional paid-day off.

County Commissioner Bernard Loar said county employees may have to use a personal day because the county cannot afford to grant a 16th paid holiday. He said the move could be mandated for civil service employees but union employees would probably resist.

"All we can do is declare it and say the heck with it," he said.

The commissioners said they will formally adopt the holiday at their next public meeting. “Today you've gotten the commitment from three of us that it will happen," said Commissioner Adrienne Ottaviani.

The hour-long meeting began with the NAACP officials complaining about county government's minority-hiring practices. According to the NAACP, only two of the county's 485 employees are African-American — or less than one percent — despite a county-wide minority population of about three percent.

Noting that 18 percent of the inmates in the county jail are minority, NAACP executive committee member Gary Beckward said there is a "direct correlation" between unemployment and crime.

"It's a vicious circle and it all starts at the top," he said.

The commissioners agreed to meet with the NAACP representatives to discuss a minority-hiring initiative called Project Fair Share.


Richard Kerns, Cumberland Times-News


Collection Location:
Allegany County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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