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The Honorable Carl Snowden

Civil rights activist and politician Carl Snowden was born on June 17, 1953, to Ora and William Snowden, in Baltimore, Maryland, and was raised in Annapolis, Maryland, where he attended Annapolis Elementary School. As a student, Snowden was greatly influenced by The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In 1970, Snowden, along with fourteen other students, were expelled from Annapolis High School after they boycotted classes to protest the school’s lack of African American teachers and African American studies courses. Local benefactors raised funds for him to attend the private Key School. While still a young adult, Snowden organized an African American group called VOTE.

1976, Snowden successfully sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for illegally spying on him through the COINTELPRO program, which was established by the FBI to keep activists under surveillance. Snowden was kept under surveillance by the FBI from the age of 16 until 24. Snowden was awarded $10,000 and the FBI was required to expunge his files. Snowden received his M.A. degree in human services from Lincoln University in 1985.

In 1982, Snowden founded Carl Snowden & Associates, a private civil rights firm that specialized in civil rights issues. After building a reputation as a leading civil rights activist, Snowden was elected to serve as representative for the majority black Fifth Ward on the Annapolis City Council in 1985. As alderman, Snowden introduced landmark legislation that prohibited private clubs from discriminating against people based on their race, color, gender, and national origin; and also passed legislation prohibiting stalking and sexual harassment. Snowden then spearheaded the removal of Arthur G. Strissel, Jr. from the position of executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority after he was charged and convicted of bribery and fraud. In 1988, Snowden founded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, Inc., which hosts an annual Awards Dinner honoring people who, through their deeds, words, and actions, help to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive. Following Snowden’s unsuccessful run for mayor of the City of Annapolis, Snowden worked for Governor Parris N. Glendening as an administrator in the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and as the president for the Anne Arundel County Economic Opportunity Committee. In 2007, the State of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler appointed Snowden as the first Director of the Civil Rights Program. While there, Snowden campaigned for civil rights for all people and led an investigation into the Annapolis Housing Authority’s banning practices.

Snowden has campaigned for numerous local candidates, including Janet S. Owens, the first woman elected as county executive in Anne Arundel County, Maryland; and Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen. Snowden, who spearheaded a successful two-year $800 thousand capital fund campaign to create the first Coretta Scott King Memorial Garden and the first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the State of Maryland. Snowden was honored with an award at the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner in Glen Burnie, Maryland in 2011.

Carl Snowden was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 9, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.038

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/9/2011

Last Name

Snowden

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

O

Schools

Lincoln University

Annapolis Elementary School

Annapolis Junior High School

Annapolis High School

University of the District of Columbia

Howard University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Carl

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

SNO01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Adults

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Civil Rights Topics

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

No One Can Do Everything, But Every One Can Do Something

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

6/17/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese Food

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city government official The Honorable Carl Snowden (1953 - ) was the director of the civil rights division in the Maryland Attorney General's Office and served as a city councilman of Annapolis, Maryland.

Employment

Office of the Attorney General of Maryland

Office of the County Executive - Anne Arundel County

Annapolis City Council

Carl Snowden & Associates

Community Action Agency

Community Viewpoint

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Carl Snowden's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his father's U.S. military service

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes segregation in Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers his playmate's father, Mr. Marshall

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls Mr. Marshall's mistreatment by his white employer

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about his mother's response to racism

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Carl Snowden lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls his maternal grandfather's death

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers Annapolis Elementary School in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his first home in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about WANN Radio in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls reading 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X'

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls boycotting classes at Annapolis High School in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls negotiating with the NAACP

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls his expulsion from Annapolis High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls attending the Key School in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers being investigated by the FBI

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his radio program, 'Community Viewpoint'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls attending Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls working for the Community Action Agency

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls the birth of his first son

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls gaining access to his FBI file

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his housing activism in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls how he came to found Carl Snowden and Associates

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes Carl Snowden and Associates

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers appearing on 'Square Off'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls meeting Oprah Winfrey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about publicizing Carl Snowden and Associates

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls his election to the Annapolis City Council

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the structure of Annapolis City Council

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls introducing a South African divestment bill

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers traveling to South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls passing South African divestment legislation in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls a lesson from Parren J. Mitchell, III

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talk about Maryland's Mitchell family

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls his decision to run for mayor of Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls his bill to integrate private clubs in Annapolis, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the political history of Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls securing the posthumous pardon of John Snowden

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls the creation of a memorial for Maryland's lynching victims

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls honoring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about Coretta Scott King's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls meeting Governor Paris Glendenning

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the government of Anne Arundel County, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls becoming director of Maryland's civil rights division

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the psychological effects of racism

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his hopes for public housing

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about economic development

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Carl Snowden describes the progress of African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Carl Snowden reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Carl Snowden talks about his family

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
The Honorable Carl Snowden remembers being investigated by the FBI
The Honorable Carl Snowden recalls securing the posthumous pardon of John Snowden
Transcript
Now how are your father [William Snowden] and you getting along during this period?$$One of the things that happened that I was not made aware of until many years later, the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] has opened up, there's a program called COINTEL- COINTELPRO, it's a counterintelligence program, it's run by J. Edgar Hoover and it was set up in the late '60s [1960s] and early '70s [1970s] and it was designed to target activists. And so the government would open up these files on people and I didn't realize it at the time. I would later come to discover that I would have one but they had opened up a file on me right after the incident at Annapolis High School [Annapolis, Maryland] and so during my final year at Key School [Annapolis, Maryland], because now I'm active in anti-war movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, during my final years at Key School, the FBI came and they interviewed my professors, they interviewed fellow students and, they interviewed my parents, who never told me this that they were being interviewed by the FBI. And when I asked my mother [Ora Brown Snowden] why she didn't tell me this she said, "Well, they said not to tell you," because you know they were conducting this investigation, they were really concerned with my wellbeing and all this kind of stuff, and so she never told me. So during this period with my parents, I think the great struggle was, was I getting myself involved in something that could ultimately do me harm because from their perspective when the FBI comes to visit you, they wanna know things about your child, something is terribly wrong. So I think at this period it was great, great concern.$$And, and that was a strained relationship--$$Yep.$$--I hear, that's what I hear.$$It was strained only because I think the views were so different.$As a result of becoming a member of the city council [Annapolis City Council] I got very much involved in the history of blacks on the city council and one of the things that I discovered when I was on city council was a man named Louis Snowden who is not related to me, came to me one day and he said to me, "I want you to look into something." And what he wanted me to look into was his brother was named John Snowden. John Snowden was the last African American that was hanged by execution in Anne Arundel County [Maryland]. His crime was that he allegedly raped and murdered a pregnant white woman [Lottie Mae Brandon]. He was an ice man, he being John Snowden. So partly because his name was Snowden, the surname, I was curious a little bit about who he was, I decided to do some research and what I found out was that indeed in 1918 [sic. 1917] when the alleged crime took place, he was arrested for that crime and February 28, 1919, he was executed by hanging. But what made this a fascinating story was that African Americans who was alive during that era including my mother [Ora Brown Snowden] who was born in 1917 had heard the story about John Snowden being handed down from generation to generation, saying that he was unfairly hanged for a crime he didn't commit. So while a member of the city council, I wrote to the then governor William Donald Schaefer same man I had a problem with 'Square Off' and relayed to him this story about John Snowden, asked that he investigate and see whether or not this guy get a posthumous pardon now that he--'cause he was deceased but see whether or not there was any truth to the, to the story that he had been unfairly executed. The governor then promised to look into it, never did anything. I had then left the city council and got appointed to the cabinet of Janet Owens [Janet S. Owens] who is the first woman elected county executive. The first day of going to work at what was called the Arundel Center [Annapolis, Maryland] which is where the sheriff's office used to be where John Snowden was hanged, I run into a black man who's walking back and forth in front of the building and I'm under the impression that he's elderly, that he doesn't know where he's going. So I started to tell him this is the building where you pay your taxes, et cetera, et cetera. And he quickly tells me, "I know what this building is. The reason I don't wanna go in this building 'cause this where they killed that Snowden guy." And I thought it was providence that he would bring that up. As I went up now in my new position as a cabinet member and I wrote the current governor at that time was Parris Glendening who was the governor that succeeded William Donald Schaefer and wrote him the same identical letter that I written to Governor Schaefer. Governor Glendening promised that he would look into it. He did look into it. They did an investigation and they concluded that in all likelihood, John Snowden did not commit the murder and had been put to death for a crime that he didn't commit. And they based that on three things that they later discovered. One is that when John Snowden was executed an anonymous letter was sent to the local newspaper saying that they killed the wrong person. Twenty-one of the--sorry, eleven of the twelve jury members during that day asked that the--asked that the governor reconsider the sentence that had been given to John Snowden 'cause now they had doubt as well and the governor thought given the racial climate that occurred during that period of time in all probability he probably didn't get a fair trial so John Snowden was the first man in Maryland's history to be pardoned for a crime that had to do with race and violence.