MCCR History

​It was for the purpose of considering matters concerning the “welfare of colored people residing in the State…, recommend legislation and sponsor movements looking to the welfare of said people, and to the improvement of interracial relations, and to cooperate with other State agencies to these ends" that the General Assembly created the Interracial Commission of Maryland in 1927 (Chapter 559 of 1927). The Commission was originally comprised of eighteen (18) members, nine (9) of which were Black and nine (9) were white. The Commission had no investigative or enforcement powers. However, in the realm of public service, the Commission came out against the Act of 1904. More commonly known as the Kerbin “Jim Crow" Law after its sponsor, Delegate William G. Kerbin of Worcester County, this required separate seating, dining, and sleeping arrangements for Blacks and Whites on railroads and steamship lines operating strictly within the State's borders.

In the arena of education, the Interracial Commission brought to light the vast disparities in education between the white and black communities. Specifically, the Commission found that:

  1. Black teachers received a salary of $640 per year, while white teachers received $1150.
  2. Per pupil spending was $95 per year per white student, while only $45 per year per black students.
  3. White schools were open 187 days per year, while black schools were open 168 days per year.

In 1943, the Commission was renamed the Commission to Study Problems Affecting the Colored Population (Chapter 432 of 1943). Their first recommendations were:

  1. The school code be amended to provide that the minimum salaries of colored teachers and supervisors be the same as those provided to whites,
  2. The State of Maryland establish an institution of higher learning for “Colored people around Morgan College,"
  3. That Blacks be represented on all Boards and Commissions appointed by the State, and

However, despite their work and recommendations, the Commission lacked staff and funding, and thus any power to positively and proactively affect the public policy at the time.

Then in 1951, the Commission to Study Problems Affecting the Colored Population was rebranded the Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations (Chapter 548 of 1951). This change was prompted by nearly a decade of racial tensions in Maryland, including riots in Baltimore in 1942 and the meeting of the Maryland Congress against Discrimination in 1946. While still lacking human and financial resources, the Commission found an ally in Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, a strong civil rights advocate.

Due to the national Civil Rights Movement and the breaking down of numerous barriers, the Maryland General Assembly and Governor established the Commission on Human Relations in 1969 (Chapter 83 of 1968). This was the first time that the Commission was allotted a budget for paid staff. By Chapter 153 of 1969, the Commission was empowered to initiate and investigate complaints of discrimination in State agencies.

The 1974 General Assembly made further amendments to the law. Discrimination in housing on the bases of marital status and sex were prohibited, and exceptions were provided with respect to the application of certain provisions in the Discrimination in Housing subtitle (Chapter 848 of 1974). A second bill provided that it was unlawful for persons and organizations to discriminate in certain employment practices against persons who were mentally or physically handicapped, to prohibit certain discriminatory activities against the physically or mentally handicapped in housing or obtaining loans on dwellings, and to make technical corrections to the language (Chapter 601 of 1974). A parallel bill prohibited discriminatory activities in public accommodations, employment, and housing because of marital status or physical or mental handicaps, and clarifying the language of the law (Chapter 875 of 1974).

By Chapter 419 of 1975, the Commission was permitted to seek certain types of court relief; namely, a temporary injunction if the Commission believed the appropriate civil action is necessary to preserve the status of the parties or to prevent irreparable harm. Chapter 333 of 1975 provided that it was lawful for employers to establish standards concerning an employee's dress and grooming standards if the standards were directly related to the nature of the employment.

Chapters 937, 907, and 706 of 1977 were important changes that set the Commission on the track to its modern composition. Chapter 937 of 1977 reduced the size of the Commission from twelve (12) members to nine (9), empowered the Commission to designate its own chair person, and abolished the previous $16,000 salary for the Chairperson. The new legislation continued the appointment of the Executive Director by the Governor, but provided that he must choose from a list of five names submitted by the Commission, and also provided for the Executive Director's removal by the Governor upon recommendation of two-thirds of the members of the Commission. The authority to appoint and remove the Deputy Director and the General Counsel was transferred from the Governor to the Executive Director with approval by the majority of the Commission members. The law also authorized the appointment of hearing examiners to hear cases under the Human Relations law, and provided for an appeal from the decisions of the hearing examiner to the Commission. Finally, the new legislation expanded the Commission's power to order appropriate relief for victims of discrimination by empowering the Commission to award monetary relief, limited to two years back pay, to the victims of employment discrimination.

Furthermore, Chapter 907 of 1977 required employers to treat disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy or childbirth in the same manner as they treat other disabilities; and by Chapter 706 of 1977, the procedures that the Commission must follow in processing employment discrimination complaints against State agencies were altered.

Overall, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations got its true authority beginning with Chapter 83 of 1968. For the next few decades, amendments were adopted on occasion, but the Commission still served a single purpose – to administer and enforce the Maryland Public Accommodations Law, Discrimination in Housing Law, and the Fair Employment Practices Law. In order to effectively achieve this, the Commission has a deferral relationship and funding provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development.

In 1999, Governor Parris N. Glendening made Maryland history as the first sitting Maryland Governor to advocate for banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It wasn't until 2001 that these protections were codified, after the Governor's pushing the bill in the Maryland General Assembly for two years (Chapter 340 of 2001). With that, sexual orientation was added to the already identified protected classes in Maryland law.

The Commission has continued to build upon this framework as it carries on its superior investigatory procedures in the areas of employment, public accommodations, housing and commercial non-discrimination. In 2011, the Commission updated its name to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights to more accurately reflect the anti-discrimination work through enforcement of the State's anti-discrimination laws, and through public outreach and education (Chapter 580 of 2011).

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