The windows of the Trinacria Italian Cafe, which were shattered by rocks thrown during April's protests, have been repaired, no longer showing any sign of the city's unrest.
But the restaurant on W. Centre Street is full of other subtle reminders of the rioting — six newly installed security cameras, a piece of paper hung on a fridge with well-wishes from the community and, as of Thursday, a certificate of recognition from the state comptroller honoring the cafe's contribution to the city.
Comptroller Peter Franchot toured downtown Baltimore Thursday, stopping first at the Trinacria Italian Cafe, before going to the National Aquarium and then to the Captain James Landing Restaurant in an effort to promote the city before this weekend's Independence Day festivities.
"Our message today is that Baltimore is a gem of city and it's important during the Fourth of July that people come down here to patronize businesses like [Trinacria]," Franchot said. "You can't gloss it over — the riots had a negative impact on the small businesses, but boy, there's so many things to enjoy.
"The last thing we need is people throwing up their hands and saying, 'Geez, I can't do anything to help the city,'" he said.
"Yes you can, you can come out and spend your money down here." Franchot said he hopes people choose Baltimore as their holiday destination.
"We're not going to prevail if we give into the bad guys by not coming to Baltimore City and not enjoying these wonderful cafes and sites," he said.
"If we avoid Baltimore, we're giving in. That's the message to send on the Fourth of July."
But who are these bad guys the good people of Maryland are hoping to avoid by not coming to Baltimore? Who are these bad guys the good people of Maryland, the latter of which have the purchasing power to propel an economy forward wherever they go (whereas the former lack any form of purchasing power and instead regress economies wherever they are found)?
It was 1942 and William McCullough, at the age of fourteen, was a small but committed part of the largest ethnic migration in American history. It was larger than the flight of the starving Irish a century before, larger still than the succeeding waves of Eastern European and Italian immigrants who later crowded the halls of Ellis Island and Castle Garden. The black exodus from the rural South in this century would utterly transform the American cities of the East and Midwest. In the Mississippi Valley, the northward migration brought thousands of southern blacks to Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis, and ultimately, the terminus cities of Chicago and Detroit. In the East, the same phenomenon brought waves of migrants to Baltimore and Washington, Philadelphia and New York.There was nothing surprising about this. Mechanization was changing the agrarian economy of the South, with the sharecropping and tenant farming that characterized so much of the black rural life increasingly marginalized. By the early 1940s, even the farming of cotton- the most labor-intensive of the Southern crops – was being transformed as mechanical cotton pickers were perfected and marketed. Once the South had staked both its society and economy on black labor; by World War II, the same labor force was expendable.To the north, the smoking cities of the American industrial belt offered an alternative. Even in the Depression years, the pages of the black community newspaper in the McCullough hometown of Winnsboro were littered with the notices of a generation inexorably drifting northward: “We regret to report another departure for Baltimore…”
“Mr. Hill, a Winnsboro native and lifelong resident of the county, will leave to join relatives in Philadelphia.”
“On Sunday last, a good-bye picnic was held for the Singletary family…”
“… the young gentleman will be departing our community next month with friends to pursue prospects in Washington…”Baltimore siphoned from the rural black population of both Carolinas and the Virginia tidewater. Southern whites- those with any sense of the future anyway- began to see the migration as beneficial, a pressure valve on their demographic time bomb. Though increasingly superfluous in the wake of mechanized agriculture, the black population had become a majority in many rural counties, a growing threat to the world of Jim Crow that might one day require a reckoning. Now, through migration, much of that reckoning would come in the North. (p. 88-89, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood).
Happy Independence Day!