February 15, 2019
Johns Hopkins hated anything that did not produce money. Although a Quaker, he got his start by peddling demon rum, bartering with farmers wanting to buy his dry-goods wares. After retiring from his merchandising businesses, he joined the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company as a full-time executive; he was the largest individual owner of America's first common carrier. His own education ended at 12, but a near-death experience with cholera kindled his interest in care issues. He joined two hospital boards--today's Union Memorial and what eventually became Spring Grove mental hospital. His $7 million bequest for the posthumous creation of Johns Hopkins hospital, university and medical school in 1870 was the largest made up to that point for American education. He decreed that the hospital treat indigents without regard to sex, age or color, but he prescribed no similar admission policy for the university.
Antero Pietila always wanted to be a foreign correspondent. "In 1969, I got my chance," he writes. "The Sun hired me to cover cops in Baltimore. There I was, a bashful 24-year-old journalist from Finland, working in an alien language in a strange country. With a reporter's notebook in my back pocket, a dog-eared street guide in my hand, and with my front pockets loaded with nickles (for pay phones), I rummaged through neighborhoods in a company car equipped with a two-way radio."
This sense of discovery in a foreign city permeates Pietila's two books about race in Baltimore. In Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (2010), he tells startling stories about his adopted city: How Baltimore in 1910 introduced legally mandated residential segregation, a first which many Southern cities copied. He offers the most comprehensive look available at redlining, blockbusting and anti-Semitism in real estate, recalling that as late as in the early 1970s two separate multiple lists existed -- one of the general market, the other one for neighborhoods that were open to the Jews.
His new book, The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins, is a follow-up to Not in My Neighborhood. The stand-alone volume chronicles Baltimore's history from the times of Johns Hopkins, the man, and how the institutions he created impacted the city, particularly the hospital and the medical school. Hopkins did not live to see their opening; yet men at their helm created the racial geography of Baltimore as we know it.
Pietila worked at The Sun for 35 years as a local reporter, correspondent in South Africa and the Soviet Union, and as a member of the editorial board. He coauthored an e-book, Race Goes To War: Ollie Stewart and the Reporting of Black Correspondents in World War II.
Antero Pietila was born in Helsinki, the eldest son of a Lutheran pastor. He graduated from the School of Social Sciences in Tampere and earned his Master of Arts at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.