top of page

The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins: The Life and Legacy That Shaped an American City (2018)

Summary | Critiques | Interview
The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins is currently available
on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.


Johns Hopkins destroyed his private papers so thoroughly that no credible biography exists of the Baltimore Quaker titan. One of America’s richest men and the largest single shareholder of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Hopkins was also one of the city’s defining developers. In The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins, Antero Pietila weaves together a biography of the man with a portrait of how the institutions he founded have shaped the racial legacy of an industrial city from its heyday to its decline and revitalization.


From the destruction of neighborhoods to make way for the mercantile buildings that dominated Baltimore’s downtown through much of the 19th century to the role that the president of Johns Hopkins University played in government sponsored “Negro Removal” that unleashed the migration patterns that created Baltimore’s existing racial patchwork, Pietila tells the story of how one man’s wealth shaped and reshaped the life of a city long after his lifetime.



"In 'The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins,' veteran Baltimore Sun journalist Antero Pietila has not merely chronicled the history and reach of one of the world's greatest medical institutions and its enigmatic founder. He has done something more insightful. This is a careful, textbook study of how power and money are routed through American cities-- or not. Pietila knows the origins and outcomes in Baltimore as few ever will, but more than that, he understands our permanent national pathologies of race, class and greed."

      DAVID SIMON, Author, Journalist, and Producer of 'The Wire'



"Antero Pietila has insightfully and carefully woven a story of wealth, pain, prejudice and the unrealized potential of an American city through the dimly lit lens of one of its most famous and enigmatic benefactors. The story within the story chronicles and explains the less than accidental idiosyncrasies and complexities of influence and pretense on over a century of urban development.

Almost cinematic in its reading, folklore surrenders to facts and scenes too compelling to dismiss.

Less than a stone's throw from Washington, D.C., and long after Hopkins' death, Pietila accurately details the Baltimore epitaph; a coexistence of excellence and mediocrity forged on an anvil of premeditated policy and racial practice. It is a welcome academic treatise on a not so incidental slice of American history. Bravo!"

      KWEISI MFUME, former NAACP President/CEO, and U.S. Congressman

"Antero Pietila has woven a rich tapestry of Baltimore history that vividly interweaves the legacy of the elusive Johns Hopkins with the warp and woof of twentieth century politics, the torturous aftereffects of slavery, and gritty personal reporting that never shies away from the disturbing questions posed by long-ingrained racism and poverty."

      FERGUS M. BORDEWICH, author of 'The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government'

"Hard-hitting and occasionally outrageous, this book gives us Baltimore by way of its most influential citizen and the institutions he created. Pietila also offers up plenty of digressions— from guano to grave robbers, mobsters to medical experiments—that are as revealing as his central subject. Picking up where his groundbreaking Not in My Neighborhood left off, he again powerfully demonstrates how racism has shaped Baltimore, even down to the legacy of the abolitionist Hopkins. Once again Pietila has written a book that should stimulate much discussion among those who care about Baltimore and its history."

      DEBORAH R. WEINER, co-author of 'On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore'

"Post-industrial Baltimore is fertile ground for coming to terms with the nation’s history of innovation and invention but also of forced labor, segregation, lynchings, eugenics and 'socioeconomic rotation'. 

In his latest book Pietila uses Johns Hopkins as the lens to focus on the high and mighty who pulled the strings and shaped Baltimore. He weaves the dealings of luminaries, power brokers, hustlers, police, and even Russian hackers, into a captivating story about his adopted hometown. Covering 200 years, the book ranges wide and far until a comprehensive picture emerges in which heroes and villains are thoroughly intertwined. Many strands lead to Johns Hopkins, the person, the university and the hospital bearing his name, adding up to what is today a 'global premium brand.'"

      KLAUS PHILIPSEN, Architect and Author of 'Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City'

bottom of page