History of Maryland

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American Indians

The Algonquin-speaking tribes, along with the Iroquois and Sioux, lived in Maryland settlements. Due to wars led by European settlers and emigration, their population decreased significantly in the 1700s.


Bill of Rights

Maryland passed the Bill of Rights which excluded people who are enslaved – the first legal distinction between whites (even servants) and Blacks.



Maryland passed “An Act Concerning Negroes and other Slaves”, which stated that free white women who entered marriage with a Black slave were declared slaves for the duration of the life of their spouse. Enslaved Africans were given the status of slaves for life.


Free Blacks

Maryland passed a law that children born to free Black women and Black children of white women would be free.



Maryland’s poll tax was replaced with across-the-board “ad valorem” property taxes. People who were enslaved were considered taxable property for the people who enslaved them.



Maryland prohibited the importation of enslaved Africans.


Free Blacks

In response to the Nat Turner Revolt, Maryland’s legislature prohibited free Blacks from entering the state. It barred free Blacks from owning firearms without a certificate from county officials. Black churches could no longer hold religious meetings unless a white minister was present.



Maryland shifted from local control of schools to a highly centralized system whereby the State Board with the State Superintendent selected textbooks, set the curriculum, certified teachers, approved school building designs, and distributed State funds. The first State Superintendent of Public Instruction proposed the establishment of separate schools for Negroes, the blind, deaf, handicapped, and the imprisoned. Maryland began a formal system of segregated schooling that continued for ninety years.


Right to Vote

The 15th Amendment was ratified granting voting rights to all Black men. Maryland did not vote to ratify. The Maryland Senate ratified it in 1973.


Racial Segregation

Maryland passed legislation that required separate areas for whites and Blacks on vehicles of public transport, including steamboats and railroads.


Racial Segregation

This incipient segregation of education between white and Black schools was formalized in 1924 when the state code was changed that required racially segregated schools.



Donald Murray, an African-American student, applied to the University of Maryland Law School. He was denied admission on the basis of his race. The NAACP filed a lawsuit on his behalf led by Thurgood Marshall, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Charles Hamilton Houston, dean of Howard University Law School, and the NAACP’s litigation director. The NAACP won the case. As a result, Blacks were allowed to attend the law school.


Apology for Slavery

Maryland approved resolutions apologizing for slavery.


State Revenue

Maryland approved a 10-cent per drink alcohol tax increase which raised additional revenue.


Wage Theft

Maryland implemented the Unpaid Wage Lien Law which provided workers a process for putting a hold on the property of an employer until the workers receive wages owed to them.


Hunger and Food Insecurity

Maryland increased the minimum food stamp program benefit for households with a member 62 years and older to $30 per month. It also reformed the 1974 Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which allowed the filing of anonymous complaints and required trial board hearings to be open to the public.



Maryland enacted the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative, which is the country’s first prescription drug price gouging law.


  • Maryland at a Glance”. Native Americans, Maryland, Maryland State Archives, 22 Dec. 2017.
  • Brugger, R. J. (1988). “Maryland, a Middle Temperament: 1634-1980.” Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • The Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland and the University of Maryland College Park, Maryland. “A Guide to the History of Slavery in Maryland”. Maryland State Archives, 30 Jan. 2008.
  • Einhorn, R. L. (2008). “American Taxation, American Slavery. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, pg. 107.
  • Thirteen, and WNET New York. “Slavery and the Making of America. Timeline | PBS.” Thirteen – Media with Impact, Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004.
  • Maryland State Department of Education “State Department of Education.” Maryland State Archives, 29 Sept. 2015.
  • The Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission, and Prince George’s County Planning Department. “Postbellum Archeological Resources in Prince George’s County, Maryland A Historic Context and Research Guide.”  Chapter 06 The African-American Experience, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
  • Anacostia Trails Heritage Area. “Trail Blazing Stories of African American History through the Door of Discovery.” Maryland Milestones, Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, 22 May 2012.