Marylanders weigh in on removing Confederate memorials

Jackson/Lee monument in Wyman Park Baltimore. Photo by Anthony Hayes, Baltimore Post-Examiner

By Marissa Horn

Capital News Service

The Civil War divided many communities and families in Maryland, according to state historians, and mementos venerating forces for both the South and the North began to appear throughout the state in the early 1900s.

“(Soldiers) returned to Maryland without a great amount of animosity toward one another, and neither side cared if the other put up a monument to honor the dead,” said Daniel Carroll Toomey, a historian who has served on the state’s Military Monuments Commission for more than 20 years. “You can’t deny the fact that the South did go to war, but then they got over it — we got over it 150 years ago.”

Now, however, communities around the Old Line State are drawing upon old lines and asking officials to reconsider monuments tied to slavery or the Confederacy four months after the racially motivated killings of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Baltimore evaluates monuments

In Baltimore, a special commission plans  to reevaluate the city’s nine Confederate monuments, continuing the national conversation about the display of racially controversial memorials, flags and other insignia.

The first of four meetings, commissioned by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, could determine how the city will memorialize the state’s Confederate past.

In spite of some of the communities’ or council members’ objections to the monuments, Toomey said, he believes the monument evaluation committee in Baltimore City is unnecessary.

“The monuments are not just the history of Baltimore City, they are just not the history of Maryland, they’re American history,” Toomey said. “And no one, no mayor has the right to say what part of American history will be remembered and what will be forgotten.”

According to Howard Libit, a spokesman for the mayor, the commission is seeking to review all Confederate-era monuments and historical items “to ensure that the city stays on the side of respecting history.”

“There is a balance between respecting history and continuing to display items that may be offensive,” Libit said.

Though Rawlings-Blake’s announcement did not name any of the statues that the commission will review, there are at least nine monuments with ties to the Confederate era in the city, according to a 2014 Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs monuments catalog.

At least one of the statues honoring Confederate soldiers in the city’s Bolton Hill neighborhood was spray-painted with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” five days after the June 17 Charleston shooting.

Costs of cleaning the statues following vandalism, or completely removing the statues altogether, have not been discussed, according to Aaron Bryant, chairman of the seven-member commission and the current Mellon curator of photography at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rebel soldier in Rockville

Confederate statue next to old brick courthouse in Rockville.
Confederate statue next to old brick courthouse in Rockville. 

But Montgomery County has already spent $20,000 boxing up and cleaning a Confederate statue that was similarly vandalized.

And the Montgomery County Council also plans to meet Thursday night to decide where to relocate the 102-year-old bronze statue of a Confederate soldier standing next to Rockville’s Red Brick Courthouse. The memorial also had the words “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on its base, in July.

“We need to find out if we will get approval to relocate the statue” and then the county will get estimates to pay for moving it, said Greg Ossont, deputy director of the Department of General Services.

In an effort to determine a new, more appropriate location, Montgomery County residents voted earlier this month on a list of five new locations for the statue. The list included: Beall-Dawson Historical Park in Rockville, Darnestown Square Heritage Park in Darnestown, Callithea Farm Special Park in Potomac, Jesup Blair Local Park in Silver Spring and Edgehill Farm in Gaithersburg. Poll results are expected to be discussed on Thursday.

“We share County Executive Isiah Leggett’s view that the statue does not belong in the center of government outside the courthouse,” said County Council President George Leventhal in a news release. “(We) believe it should be relocated to a site where we are able to tell the full story of Montgomery County’s participation in the Civil War from all perspectives.”

North of Rockville, at the Monocacy National Battlefield, there is another Confederate monument, which the United Daughters of the Confederacy funded and built in 1914.

“We haven’t had any issues with our monuments and no indication of defacement or other tampering,” said Rick Slade, superintendent at Monocacy National Battlefield. “It’s a simple roadside rock pedestal with a plaque. It’s not very elaborate or distinctive, so it doesn’t attract a lot of attention.”

Taney bust in Frederick

Taney bust_frederick
Roger Brooke Taney bust in front of Frederick City Hall. Photo by Marissa Horn, Capital News Service

At the seat of the county, however, Frederick city’s Board of Aldermen are deliberating whether to remove the bust of former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney from in front of City Hall.

Taney’s opinion in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case protected slaveholders’ rights and excluded African American slaves from citizenship.

“Although Justice Taney was a complex individual, he is most widely known for writing the majority opinion on the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford — a legal opinion that set the rights of all blacks back decades,” Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, a Democrat, wrote in an email.

In 2008, Frederick officials compromised with Taney opponents and added a plaque to the bust stating that the Dred Scott decision “revealed the content of established racism in our law and in our thinking.”

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement stated the fabrication, design and installation of the plaque cost the city $20,000 and estimated that moving the bust could cost around $10,000, according to McClement’s press secretary.

In her third attempt to remove the bust, Kuzemchak wrote, she will propose her resolution at a public meeting Oct. 1.

“I have no desire to remove all Confederate statues and memorials,” she wrote. “Pretending something never happened is not the answer. However, honoring a man who is best known for words that dehumanized an entire race is something I cannot abide.”

Despite the city’s efforts to remove the statue, there remain other tributes honoring Taney around the city including Taney Avenue, his grave and his house, which is a historical landmark.

This is where the mess of drawing a distinction begins, Toomey said, like which Confederate-oriented statues should and should not be removed. Though he agrees with the decision to not fly the Confederate battle flag over government buildings, Toomey said, the monuments should remain in place.

“If anyone was a slaveowner … you would have to take down the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and blow a path through Mount Rushmore or change the name of the capital,” Toomey said. “Where does it stop?”

Talbot Boys in Easton

Other counties, including Talbot County, are reconsidering statues and memorials in public places. Corey Pack, Talbot County’s council president, said officials will discuss the Confederate-honoring, privately funded ‘Talbot Boys’ statue in front of Easton’s courthouse next week at a meeting.

One option includes adding a second statue to the lawn, to honor the Union soldiers from the county, Pack said. There is already a statue of Frederick Douglass at the courthouse. The famous abolitionist was born a slave in the county and escaped to freedom and later fame.

“We are going to talk about what the next step looks like and what the next step should be,” Pack said. “We are moving and we are trying not to be stagnant during this time.”

4 thoughts on “Marylanders weigh in on removing Confederate memorials

  • September 21, 2015 at 10:47 PM

    Would someone please tell Frederick Alderwoman Kuzemchak that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was not a Confederate as he in fact remained loyal to the Union and in office as a sitting Supreme Court Justice until his death. He
    delivered the Presidential oath of office to Abraham Lincoln.

    “I have no desire to remove all Confederate statues and memorials,” she
    wrote. “Pretending something never happened is not the answer. However, honoring a man who is best known for words that dehumanized an entire race is something I cannot abide.”

    Pretending someone is Confederate is not the answer either, and I can’t abide by erroneous and faulty historical allegations promulgated for political ends.

  • September 21, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    This is a little long – but it is the truth on this whole situation. It is our responsibility to ensure that whole Truth of our history & heritage be preserved. If
    everyone would go, do research on ALL of the events of our history, in
    Chronological order, actually read everything that was taking place, & in
    the years leading up to secession & Ft Sumter, there would be no arguments
    about our history & heritage today. The WHOLE TRUTH, is very well
    documented & taught in schools until about 40 years ago. Educate
    yourselves on all of it – especially look at the Douglas/Lincoln debates of
    1858, Lincoln’s 1st inaugural speech in 1861, the proposed “Corwin”
    amendment (proposed 13th amendment of March 1861), Lincoln’s own papers which were sealed until 1890, containing the “SECRET” orders being
    delivered to the Military March/April 1861, Lincoln’s violation of the
    Pensacola Agreement, the agreed date that the Union was to evacuate Ft Sumter, ignoring the Supreme Court Justices reprimanding him of his GROSS violations of our Constitution, arresting & false imprisonment of people who disagreed with him, etc. etc. The above military orders were being dispersed while
    negotiations were taking place in Richmond for a peaceful resolution – ironing
    out the details regarding the secession. The South rejected the “Corwin
    Amendment” (proposed 13th amendment of 1861), the North passed it. Also look at the Morrill Tariff documents, etc. Let’s not forget about the African
    Colonization meetings of 1862 that he wanted to do but was too expensive. All
    of this is Historical Facts, Congressional records, Military records, Lincoln’s
    own diaries & Presidential papers. There is so much more to this – LEARN
    THE WHOLE TRUTH!!! Also, look at the TRUTH of the RECONSTRUCTION period, PEOPLE! The monstrosities are well documented & the North was the ORDERED to do so – all historically documented – the intentional destruction of “the non-military” people of the South, civilians – women, children, blacks, etc. –
    if anyone “resisted” the Union Soldiers. READ & LEARN! THE TRUTH WILL SET
    YOU FREE & YOU WILL BE ENLIGHTENED. Only FOOLS ignore & try to argue
    against the well documented historical facts and events. Who in their right
    mind, would stand aside & not defend themselves, their property, homes,
    food, livestock & children against the Union Soldiers who were marching
    through their land, taking everything? Of course they would try to defend what
    was rightfully theirs. That was the “Excuse” that Sherman and the others used
    for their inhumane actions. Those types of actions are considered to be “WAR
    CRIMES” – were they prosecuted? No they weren’t – the orders came from Lincoln himself.

    No one needs to interpret or have an opinion on any of the above. People are smart enough to read it all for what it is – the truth of our history & heritage.
    Personally, I had 88 direct descendants who fought for Virginia & North
    Carolina. Most were Quakers or Quaker descendants. If you know anything about
    Quakers or the Society of Friends, you will know that they did not believe in
    Slavery at all, none of them owned any slaves & believe in the equality of
    the genders and races. If anyone of them became a “Soldier” for any reason,
    they were EJECTED from the Society – this was their practice up until about
    WWI. Now, I have a question for you – how bad do you think things had to be for
    them to join the CSA forces, become “Soldiers” & be ejected from the only
    Society that they had ever known? It definitely was not for Slavery – it was to
    fight off an aggressive invasion by the Union, protect their Constitutional
    Rights, States Rights, their land, businesses, against high tariffs/taxes that
    were driving them into the ground, farms, homes & families. By the way,
    secession was legal at the time – that is why President Buchanan or anyone else
    did anything about it when it was happening. Look it up for yourself. I don’t care
    how many people try & say that the Tariffs/taxes were not an issue, it was.
    Anyone with a brain can read & see it for themselves.

    As you well know, the Corwin Amendment basically legalized slavery/servitude, which was ratified by the North & signed off by President Buchanan, in 1861. SO! If it had been made “LEGAL”, why would the South still refuse to rejoin the Union,
    then go to War over an issue that the Union had just made legal with the Corwin
    Amendment? None of them were fools – so it is obvious that slavery was not the
    issue that kept the Southern States from rejoining the Union after the passage
    of the Corwin Amendment. Use your common sense people.

    Again, people are not taught the whole truth of our history & heritage anymore at
    all. If it were, we would not be where we are today with the PC BS brigade or
    with the NAACP/SPLC omitting/spinning issues for their own agendas &
    propaganda. The truth is the truth, the facts are the facts, the events
    happened & are well documented. This is not being “MADE UP” by any of us –
    when you produce & fight back all of these groups with actual history that
    cannot be disputed so we are personally attacked because they cannot dispute
    the facts. We are still called Racist, Haters, KKK & Skin head lovers, Black
    supporters are being called Uncle Tom’s, etc. It is simply not true at all.
    They only people who are fitting the definitions of Racist & Haters these
    days, are the people who are trying to destroy our history & heritage. They
    are committing crimes, having violent protests, showing/shouting the hate,
    using vulgar language/hate slurs on their signs, attacking anyone who supports
    our heritage/history, destroying personal property, etc. – not any of us. They
    do this in front of the police & they don’t arrest any of them – they are
    afraid to do so. These people need to be taught that we have “CONSTITUTIONAL
    RIGHTS” also & have the right to do what we are doing & in a peaceful
    manner, unlike them. They are showing the whole world, who the real haters
    & racists are these days.

    The flag runs/parades are peaceful, the protest gatherings are peaceful as they are supposed to be. Again, they all need to be educated on the truth of our
    history. As we all know, “Extremist” groups miss use many things that are held
    sacred by the majority. Why don’t y’all report the truth about the main flag of
    the KKK functions & meetings as being the stars n stripes & the
    Christian flag. Research that – y’all can do that & shut this crap down.
    Research what the Major Flags are used by the KKK – the Southern Cross is not
    their flag.

    Why doesn’t anyone state the facts that the North still had slaves during the War & even after the war ended – even the Northern Commanders, etc. There were still many slaves in the Northern free states. How hypocritical! None of this is
    taught. How about the fact that General Lee didn’t own any slaves himself &
    set free all of the slaves that his wife inherited from her father when he
    passed away. Why demonize Lee? He didn’t own any – but Grant did – even after
    the War was over – he kept his slaves. All of this is well documented. If the
    Whole Truth of our History & Heritage were taught in schools now, as it
    used to be, way back when we were in schools & learned all of the above, we
    would not be having these problems today. The history that is taught today is
    so redacted, watered down & twisted so bad, this is where we are today –
    with racial tensions worse today, than they were in the 70’s – fighting again
    to preserve our history & heritage & demand that the whole truth be
    taught to everyone again.

    In my opinion, the MEDIA has an obligation to report the TRUTH of it all, stay away from the PCBS bandwagon to stir up descent. Report the Truth. Report about all of the peaceful Southern Heritage rallies that are growing & growing, going on across the Country. Pandora’s box has been opened on this issue – we will fight with the truth, backed by historical facts/documents. It makes me very
    upset, sad & angry, watching all of this DISRESPECT of my relatives, who were
    honorable – God fearing people, all of them being DEMONIZED by the PC bandwagon who don’t know their head from a whole in the ground or choose to ignore the whole truth of our History. Unless someone, somewhere decides to destroy all of the historical documents & facts regarding this whole thing, the truth will always be there for someone to research, read & report it all, properly.

  • September 21, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    Just leave them alone. There are a lot worse things to worry about besides historical monuments.

  • September 21, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Controversy brings attention and dialog. It is not something to be avoided, but to be used as a tool for teaching history. To remove something because it’s controversial it to try to erase it from memory…

    Baltimore in particular should not remove its memorials… terrible things happened in Baltimore, including the illegal imprisonment of many citizens by Abraham Lincoln. And the Pratt Street Riots started Clara Barton on the road to forming the American Red Cross…

    What the city should do is start Historic Walking Tours (like they do in New Orleans) to highlight the monuments, what they stand for, and put them in perspective.

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