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Charles officials plan ceremony to honor Hattie Carroll


Hattie Carroll

UPDATE Friday, Oct. 20

Charles County Government Press Release

La Plata, MD - On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Charles County Commissioners voted to pass Resolution #2017-17, honoring Ms. Hattie Carroll an African-American waitress killed in a 1963 hate crime committed by a Charles County resident. The assailant was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine. On Saturday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m., the Commissioners will recognize the injustice committed against Ms. Carroll by ceremonially naming “Hattie Carroll Way,” a pedestrian walkway on the east side of the Charles County Government Building in La Plata. To date, Ms. Carroll has not been commemorated in a permanent way in the state of Maryland.

The court handed down the sentence on the same day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. held the March on Washington and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 2016 Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, who was 22 years old at the time and traveling home by train after performing at the march, read a newspaper article about Hattie Carroll’s death and the subsequent sentencing. He later wrote, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” a protest song about the case.

“Hattie Carroll may have been a sung hero of the civil rights movement thanks to the song by a very young Bob Dylan, but otherwise her infamous death has not received any permanent commemoration. This recognition is long overdue,” said Commissioner Ken Robinson (District 1).

Vicki Marckel, a Charles County teacher whose commissioned artwork includes the Vatican, will unveil a portrait of Ms. Carroll at the ceremony. This painting will later be on display in the Charles County Government Building lobby, and ultimately presented to the Carroll family. Also on display will be artifacts from the court proceedings donated by Mr. Bruce Poole, whose father, David Poole, was the lead prosecutor in the case.

Poole said, “What happened in the State of Maryland vs. Zantzinger case was an important moment in Maryland’s civil rights history and was a much-discussed case in our household while I was growing up.  My father was proud of the prosecution in the case and, like so many others, he was shocked at the light sentence.  The Charles County commemoration of Ms. Carroll and this landmark case is both appropriate and timely.”


Previous story posted Sept. 21

La Plata, MD - On a split vote taken during their Sept. 19 meeting, the Charles County Commissioners approved a resolution to honor an African-American woman killed 54 years ago by a wealthy white county resident. The proposal forwarded by Commissioner Ken Robinson [D – District 1] would commemorate the 1963 death of Hattie Carroll by naming the pedestrian walkway running through the Charles County Government complex in her honor.

 

 

Carroll was working as a barmaid at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore Feb. 9, 1963 when she was attacked by 24-year-old William Zantzinger of Charles County. The hotel was hosting an event dubbed “The Spinsters’ Ball.”  Zantzinger, who was reportedly drunk, began peppering Carroll with racial insults and assaulted her with a cane. She sustained severe head injuries and died hours later. Zantzinger was charged with second-degree assault. That charge was later reduced to manslaughter. Attorneys for the wealthy landowner-tobacco farmer were able to get Zantzinger’s trial moved to Hagerstown. He received a six-month sentence. The sentence was handed down the same day as the historic March on Washington. One of the march’s more famous attendees, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, read accounts of the case and wrote a song based on it. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” was released on Dylan’s “Times They Are a-Changin’ ” album, which was released in 1964.

Robinson said the gesture of naming something in the county in Carroll’s honor was appropriate because she was killed by “a racist who called Charles County home. This is a way to acknowledge how wrong it was.” According to Robinson, members of Carroll’s family have agreed to come to La Plata for a ceremony tentatively scheduled for next month.

Commissioner Debra Davis [D - District 2] (pictured, left) took issue with Robinson’s proposal. “No disrespect to the Carroll family, but we need to honor someone from Charles County,” said Davis. She noted that during the early 1960s when Charles County was segregated, local African-Americans, including her father, were clamoring for change and proactive in the Civil Rights movement. “There has been push-back [to Robinson’s resolution],” Davis noted. “The community does not support this.”

Commissioner Amanda Stewart [D - District 3] (pictured, right) sided with Robinson, calling the naming of the walkway a move to “reach out and acknowledge a wrong.” Stewart added that “there is not a limit of the people we can recognize. We should think forward. Let’s not say ‘no’ for this walkway.”

Robinson further explained that there will be no monument involved in the project—just a sign designating the pedestrian right-of-way the “Hattie Carroll Walkway.”
Commissioner Bobby Rucci [D - District 4] concurred with Davis that the designation was not a good idea. Davis and Rucci voted opposed while Robinson and Stewart voted in favor. Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy [D] broke the tie and the motion passed.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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