George Calvert set Maryland up as a refuge for persecuted English Catholics in 1634 when he purchased St Mary’s City from the local Piscataway, whom he initially tried to co-exist with. Puritan refugees drove both Piscataway and Catholics from control and shifted power to Annapolis; their harassment of Catholics produced the Tolerance Act, a flawed but progressive law that allowed freedom of any (Christian) worship in Maryland – a North American first.
That commitment to diversity has always characterized this state, despite a mixed record on slavery. Although her loyalties were split during the Civil War, a Confederate invasion was halted here in 1862 at Antietam. Following the war Maryland harnessed its black, white and immigrant workforce, splitting the economy between Baltimore’s industry and shipping, and later Washington, DC’s need for services. Today the answer to ‘What makes a Marylander?’ is ‘All of the above:’ the state mixes rich, poor, the foreign-born, urban sophisticates and rural villages like few others.