Portrait of Frederick Douglass, unveiled on September 15, 2014 , that will grace on the wall’s of the (Maryland) Governor’s Mansion.

Maryland history will be made Sept. 15 when a portrait of Frederick Douglass – the first likeness of an African American to grace the walls of the governor’s residence in Annapolis – is unveiled.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said it is fitting that a painting of one of Maryland’s most famous sons marks this momentous and groundbreaking occasion.

“It’s truly an honor to be a part of this celebration and commemorate the life of one of my boyhood heroes, Frederick Douglass – a Marylander who despite facing tremendous adversity, never lost hope and never stopped fighting for the better future he dreamed of,” said Gov. O’Malley in an e-mailed statement. “This beautiful portrait, the first portrait of an African American to ever grace the walls of Government House, will act as an inspiration for future generations and fitting tribute to his spirit of resilience, achievement and fortitude.”

That the painting of the renowned former slave-turned-abolitionist was commissioned by Eddie Brown, CEO of Brown Capital Management, and created by celebrated portraitist Simmie Knox is also fitting, officials said. The trifecta of Douglass, Brown and Knox symbolizes the state’s commitment to fostering diversity and opportunities for African Americans and honoring culture and history, officials said.

Brown Capital Management is the oldest African American-owned investment company in Maryland and the second-oldest such company in the United States. It is the poster company for the State’s “Choose Maryland” advertising campaign.

Knox became the first African-American artist to create an official portrait of a U.S. president in 2004, when he completed a painting of President Bill Clinton. Other notable portraits he’s painted include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and late Maryland State Sen. Clarence Blount.  Knox’s first portrait of Frederick Douglass in 1976 is part of the Smithsonian Institute art collection and is now located in the Center for African American History and Culture, in Anacostia, Washington, D.C.

“It is quite an honor and a thrill,” Knox told the AFRO about the chance to paint this history-making portrait.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO