Baltimore is over 60 percent Black. Baltimore is home to two HBCUs, Coppin State University and Morgan State University. Reginald F. Lewis, the first Black man to captain a billion dollar corporation, hails from Baltimore and has a museum in his honor there. Baltimore boasts of so many things Black people can be proud of and among those was the son of sharecroppers, a man who rose to be a powerful figure in the United State House of Representatives, Elijah Cummings. With his passing America loses a powerful bridge builder and moral agent; Black America, however, lost one of the greatest embodiments of one of our most powerful narratives, “up from slavery.”
Sharecropping was a fact of life for Black folks and not a pleasant one. For many, sharecropping and chattel slavery were eerily similar circumstances. The Cummings family left that life in South Carolina for better prospects, further North. Cummings was raised in Baltimore and eventually attended Howard University, where he was student government president and graduated with a degree in political science. After earning a law degree from the University of Maryland, Cummings practiced law before serving 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. Cummings became the first African-American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tem.
Cummings was into his 13th term serving in Congress. Of late, Cummings was most known — and feared — for his role as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. In other words, Cummings served as one of the greatest checks to Donald Trump’s power. Stop. A Black man, from a Black city, a son of sharecroppers, was empowered to check the most powerful man in the world. That authority was, ultimately, given to Cummings by Black voters in and around Baltimore. The prestige of the office Cummings held was rooted in Baltimore, a Black city. His eloquence and passion refined at Howard University, a Black college. His work ethic and soul given to him by sharecroppers from South Carolina who lived in the shadows of slavery. Elijah Cummings is the true American experience.