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WAMU: Maryland Leaders Renew Calls To Remove Confederate Memorials

Maryland leaders are again hoping to remove Confederate statues and memorials on public grounds in response to nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.

Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones has asked the Maryland State House Trust board for a second time in the last year to remove a plaque that was placed in the capitol in the 1960s.

Jones said the wording on the plaque inappropriately honors Confederate soldiers who fought to preserve slavery in the United States.

The plaque reads, in part:

“In commemorating the centennial of that great struggle between the citizens of the temporarily divided nation in the 1860s the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong . . . it seeks to pay tribute to those who fought and died. As well as to the citizens who, during the Civil War, tried to do their duty as they saw it.”

Last year, the board voted 3 to 1 to keep the plaque in place, but replace the American and Confederate flags on top of it with the Maryland state flag. Jones, the first African American female speaker, said the “board missed the point” with the decision.

“In light of the George Floyd incident, people are looking for the removal of symbols of the Confederacy,” she said.

The plaque currently resides just outside the old House of Delegates chamber in the State House where slavery was abolished in Maryland in 1864. Earlier this year, statues of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were erected in that same room.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) wrote in a statement that he supported the removal of the plaque. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford told the Washington Post that he supported the removal as long as a plaque could be put up that “reflects Maryland’s history in the Civil War.” Maryland did not secede during the Civil War, though it was a border state where slavery remained legal.

“The Maryland State House is a living museum that must reflect the truth of our past in order to remind visitors how far we have come and how much further we need to go,” he told the Post.

Jacqueline Allsup, president of Anne Arundel County’s branch of the NAACP, has agreed with Jones and said the plaque should be removed.

“These memorials are historical, but it also reminds us, black and brown people, of slavery and the racism that occurred during that time,” Allsup said.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is running for governor in the 2022 election, is calling for the Talbot County Council to remove the Talbot Boys statue located in front of the county’s courthouse. The statue was erected in 1916 by the United Confederate Veterans and named after the 84 county residents who fought for the south during the Civil War. It depicts a Confederate soldier carrying a Confederate flag.

“It’s a stain and blemish,” Franchot said. “It was put up to romanticize white supremacy and legitimize an act of treason.”

While Franchot would like to see the statue removed and melted, members of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP are asking that the statue be relocated to a space where it can be put in the context of Maryland’s Civil War history.

The Talbot Boys monument is a disgrace to one of our state’s most beautiful places. The monument has no value. It was, and is, nothing more than propaganda designed to romanticize white supremacy and legitimize an act of treason against the U.S. It’s time to bring it down. pic.twitter.com/dG1gAqa8Ou

— Comptroller Peter Franchot (@peterfranchot) June 8, 2020

“These memorials were erected in a time period when that was the norm, that was OK,” Richard Potter, president of the county’s NAACP, said. “How does an African American go to a courthouse and they see a Confederate monument that glorified them being in bondage?”

Potter said the story of how the Union prevailed in the Civil War is the most important to tell.

“But we also need to tell a story about how deeply things were torn in Maryland,” he said.

During the Civil War, Maryland had citizens that fought on both the Confederate and Union sides. According to historians, had President Abraham Lincoln allowed Maryland to secede from the Union, the nation’s capital would have fallen to the Confederacy.

This isn’t the first time there have been calls to remove the Talbot statue. Following a shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015, the Talbot County branch of the NAACP asked the county council to remove the statue, sparking debate among county residents. Ultimately, the council decided not to remove the statue.

Council President Cory Pack, who is black, told the Baltimore Sun at the time, “We felt it would be disrespectful to the family members of those Confederate relatives still alive in Talbot County.”

The county council is expected to meet on June 23 to vote on the statue’s removal again. Pack said the council is hoping to make other reforms.

“We’re also looking for an annual report on diversity from the county manager,” Pack said. “I’m asking the council to consider a diversity statement that will be created and placed in the employee handbooks.”

Pack said the county council will also be looking to sign on to Congress’ 2020 Justice in Policing Act, to prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement agencies from profiling people on racial, religious or other discriminatory grounds. The act also addresses measures to reform law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. in banning chokeholds and other violent uses of force.

In recent weeks, Virginia has also removed statues in Alexandria and Richmond honoring the Confederacy.

https://wamu.org/story/20/06/12/maryland-leaders-renew-calls-to-remove-confederate-memorials/


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