In a historic milestone for Federalsburg, Maryland, the town saw the swearing-in of its first-ever Black lawmakers on October 2, a major moment in the town’s 200-year history.
In September, Brandy James and Darlene Hammond were elected to represent District 1 on the town council. District 1 is the town’s first majority-Black district, CNN reports.
This victory followed a legal battle focused on Federalsburg’s election system, which local voting rights advocates contended had marginalized Black residents for decades.
Both James and Hammond officially assumed office on Oct. 2.
Reflecting on her win, James expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve her community.
“It was a thankful moment that I was able to win this election not only to help my community but to pay homage to those who paved the way for people of color and different ethnicities to be able to go to the town hall and vote, to be able to have the right to vote,” she told CNN.
For James, her election carries on a family legacy of political involvement. Her father, Rev. Charles T. Cephas, Sr., became the inaugural Black mayor of Hurlock, Maryland, in 2021.
In 2022, organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Caroline County NAACP urged Federalsburg to reform its at-large election system, advocating for a district-based electoral model. Historically, government officials in the town were responsible for appointing or electing lawmakers, resulting in an all-White government. The ACLU contended that direct representation from the community was crucial for addressing the needs of Black residents.
After months of advocacy, the ACLU of Maryland and seven Black Federalsburg residents, including Hammond, filed a federal lawsuit against the town, asserting that the election practices and structure disproportionately marginalized Black voters.
In June, the Federalsburg town council approved a resolution to implement a new two-district voting system. James and Hammond’s election followed in September.
With James and Hammond now in office, Black residents have, for the first time, secured two Black representatives on the town council.