The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Wes Moore, Maryland’s first Black governor, shows the state’s potential

Wes Moore, right, is sworn in as Maryland governor by Matthew J. Fader, chief justice of the Maryland Supreme Court, on Wednesday in Annapolis. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Wes Moore became Maryland’s first African American governor on Wednesday in a ceremony rich with symbolism. On a sunny and unseasonably warm afternoon, the former Army captain and nonprofit executive took the oath of office with his hand on two Bibles: One was owned by Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery in Maryland to become an abolitionist. The other belonged to Mr. Moore’s grandfather, the first Black minister of the Reformed Church in America. (His great-grandfather, another minister, fled with the family from South Carolina to Jamaica after being threatened by the Ku Klux Klan.)

The new governor began his first day in office with a wreath-laying ceremony at what was once a slave port on the Annapolis waterfront. He then delivered an inaugural address on the steps of a State House built with slave labor. The ceremony’s emcee was Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, a direct descendant of enslavers. “Today is a very long time coming,” Mr. Pittman said.

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Mr. Moore, a Democrat, is only the third Black person ever elected governor of any state, and he’s the only Black person leading a state today. Also sworn in Wednesday was Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D), the first woman of color and first immigrant to hold that job in Maryland. Further reflecting the diversity of the Old Line State, Anthony G. Brown became Maryland’s first Black attorney general and Brooke Lierman the state’s first female comptroller.

Mr. Moore acknowledged the historical significance, but his inaugural address looked toward the future. The 44-year-old said it’s “inexcusable” that “Maryland incarcerates more Black boys than any other state,” that the median White family has eight times more wealth than its Black counterpart and that Maryland’s unemployment rate ranks 43rd in the nation. A signature proposal is for an optional paid year of service for Marylanders after they graduate high school.

We were heartened to hear Mr. Moore promise to be pragmatic “and not worry about what political ideology asks us to believe or do.” His elevation is a heartwarming reminder that Americans need not be prisoners of our collective past and that institutions can refresh to mirror those they serve. As Mr. Moore said on Wednesday, “In the state of Maryland, anything is possible.”

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