Mamie B. Todd, an outspoken civil rights activist whose work as a social worker led to the creation of the state’s Child Protective Services Agency, dies – Baltimore Sun

Grandma B. Todd, the granddaughter of a slave who became an outspoken civil rights activist and social worker whose advocacy for children led to the creation of the Child Protective Services Agency of State, died in her sleep on April 8 at her home in Pacific Grove, Calif. The former longtime Ashburton resident was 105.

“My grandmother was always impatient with the humiliation and degradation of segregation because she knew where she was descended from,” said her grandson, Benjamin Todd Jealous, who had served as head of the NAACP. from 2008 to 2013 and was the Democrat. 2018 Maryland gubernatorial candidate. “She was a humble, quiet powerhouse.”

Former Mamie Bland, daughter of Frederick Bland, a 300-acre farm owner and builder, and his wife, Bessie Ethel Wood Neale Todd, a teacher and midwife, was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and grew up in Prince George. County, Virginia.

Her grandfather, Edward David Bland, who became a lifelong inspiration, was born into slavery in 1848 in Virginia, and later served as a member of the Virginia legislature during post-Civil War reconstruction. .

“He led a multiracial populist movement that resulted in the founding of Virginia State University, the expansion of Virginia Tech” and “helped secure the future of free public education for children in the Commonwealth of Virginia “, according to a profile submitted by his daughter. , Ann Frederica Todd Jealous, and her son, Mr. Jealous.

“He believed in what was possible,” Mr Jealous said in a telephone interview. “A dream deferred will ultimately not be a dream not denied. It’s not if, but when.

Ms Todd’s grandfather, Edward David Bland, was the first in his family to join the NAACP which was founded in 1909, with six generations following his example. He died in 1927.

“My grandmother was largely her grandfather’s granddaughter, and she took all of that with her,” Mr Jealous said.

“Because the births of black children in the county were not registered and because she looked white, she would go to the courthouse and register their births,” said her daughter, a psychotherapist at the retirement who lives in Pacific Grove, during a telephone interview. “No one bothered her because they thought she was just another white woman sitting in the corner.”

“His handwriting is on my birth certificate,” Ms. Todd told the Monterey County Herald in a 2009 interview.

She and her five siblings attended a one-room school for “colored children,” the first in Prince George’s County, and on land her grandfather had donated to the school. There she excelled in math and science and was often called upon to tutor the school’s 19 students.

As a young girl, her father gave her a broken down car and told her she could drive it once it was running.

“When I was 14, my dad bought me a Model A Ford,” Ms Todd explained in the newspaper interview. “I learned physics by taking this car apart, cleaning all the parts and putting it back together.”

After a year of work and obtaining a special permit from the county, she was able to drive herself and her siblings to school every day.

By high school, she moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where she lived with an aunt. The school was located at what was then Virginia State College, now Virginia State University, which she later attended and graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors.

While in college, she met and fell in love with a classmate, Edward Jerome “Romie” Todd, whom she married in 1939.

After graduating from college, she taught algebra at a local public school and at a 2009 interview with NPR’s “Story Corps” was “outraged that they were expected to teach without the necessary books and supplies or even a blackboard that held chalk.”

“In her typically fearless style in the face of unfair adversity, she confronted the superintendent of the separate school system and convinced him to deliver new supplies to her school,” Mr Jealous wrote.

As part of the Great Migration, Mrs. Todd and her husband left Virginia in 1941 and settled in McCulloh homes, then moved to Ashburton.

Her husband worked as a Pullman porter for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad while she worked for Planned Parenthood. She also babysat the children of civil rights activists Clarence Mitchell and Juanita Jackson Mitchell, who led the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.

Living in the North did not mean the end of racial discrimination, and because Mrs. Todd looked white and her husband was dark-skinned, it often meant unpleasant and humiliating inquiries, especially from the police. .

“My dad, a dark-skinned African-American, would pick her up after work and take her to the park for a milkshake,” his daughter told the Monterey Herald in 2009. He had checked her driver’s license. She looked very Anglo-Saxon; and it was illegal in Baltimore for blacks and whites to live together, and they wanted to know if she was sexually assaulted by a black man.

“She was showing them her driver’s license which had a ‘C’ for color on it,” her daughter said. “And then she would tell them he was her husband. They had come home and she was very angry and there was my dad looking at the floor. He was so ashamed.

Ms. Todd accepted a position as a social worker for the Baltimore City Department of Social Welfare, where she worked tirelessly as a child advocate. She witnessed what she called the “great suffering”, which inspired her dedication to eradicating racial and social oppression.

She participated in marches in the slums of Baltimore and traveled to Washington to pressure Congress not to fund high-rise projects, which she said would become ghettos.

In 1952, she urged her daughter to join other young NAACP activists and become a plaintiff in the lawsuit that eventually desegregated Western High School in 1958. Ms. Jealous became the first black editor of the Western newspaper and one of its first African-American graduates.

Ms. Todd decided she wanted to get a master’s degree in social work, but because black people weren’t allowed to attend graduate school in Maryland, they were sent out of state at taxpayers’ expense to other colleges and universities.

In 1953, she earned her master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and soon launched a “crusade to end the exploitation and abuse of Baltimore’s most vulnerable children,” Jealous wrote.

His work resulted in the creation of the State Department of Child Protective Services. “His goal was both to ensure that suspected child molesters were investigated by trained professionals to ensure that abused children received therapeutic treatment,” according to the profile.

Ms. Todd was also instrumental in the efforts that made Maryland one of the first states to establish an undergraduate social work degree at public universities.

Because there were so few black female executives in state agencies, the governor gave Ms. Todd a designated parking spot with her name on it so her car wouldn’t be towed, her grandson said.

Ms. Todd had a huge influence on these young social workers, including Barbara A. Mikulski, who would later become a U.S. senator from Maryland, and who recently called her mentor a “national legend in child protection.”

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After her college-educated husband left the railroads, he earned a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law and had a long career in the Department of Juvenile Services at the state.

After the couple retired in 1982, they moved from Dennlyn Road in Ashburton to their summer home in Cape May, New Jersey, and after her husband’s death in 2006, Mrs. Todd moved to Pacific Grove, where she lived independently at the Canterbury Woods nursing home. . She volunteered for the Village Project, played bridge and enjoyed spending time with family and friends.

While in Baltimore, she communicated at St. James’s Episcopal Church, and in 1958, with eight other women, she founded The Pierians, a group dedicated to the study, promotion and enjoyment of the arts. The organization has grown with chapters in several states.

In 2018, she received the President’s Award from the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP for a lifetime of civil rights activism and commitment.

“She had a passion for making things better. It’s our family DNA. We want to make things better,” her daughter said.

Plans for a celebration of life gathering to be held August 6 in Pacific Grove are incomplete.

In addition to her daughter and grandson, Mrs. Todd is survived by a granddaughter; and three great-grandchildren.

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