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Plans for Confederate monuments formalized

A Baltimore mayoral commission released Wednesday formalized recommendations to remove two city-owned Confederate monuments.

The commission studied four monuments in particular; the Lee Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell, the Roger B. Taney Monument at Mt. Vernon Place, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mt. Royal Avenue near Mosher Street and the Confederate Women’s of Maryland Monument at Bishop Square Park.

In January, it recommended removing the monuments to Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision, and Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and keeping the other two.

The report also explained the history behind each monument.

In the short term, the mayor is requesting a couple of things. She wants the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, CHAP, to develop interpretive signs for the four monuments.

“I don’t think any of the commission members were interested in erasing or re-writing history,” she said.  “But we certainly should work to interpret it for today’s context.”

Rawlings-Blake also wants CHAP and the Office of Promotion and the Arts, BOPA, to look for new owners.

“I’m requesting that CHAP and BOPA consider any viable relocation proposals should such proposals be made,” she said.

The commission recommended the Taney and Lee Jackson Monuments be offered to the National Park Service for display at the Chancellorsville Battlefield in Virginia.

The mayor said the city has not received relocation proposals or heard from anyone interested in taking the monuments.

Credit P. Kenneth Burns
Dr. Aaron Bryant, chairman of the mayoral commission, said characterized conversations around the city's Confederate monuments as "fascinating" and "civil."

Rawlings-Blake created the commission shortly after the June 2015 shooting of nine African-Americans by a white supremacist in a South Carolina church.

The incident at Emmanuel A.M.E. church led many, including officials in Maryland, to reconsider the place of Confederate flags and statues.

The pastor of the church known as Mother Emmanuel, Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator.  His colleagues in that state’s legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds after a polarizing and emotional debate.  South Carolina Public Radio reported the flag flew on the grounds for 54 years.

But Dr. Aaron Bryant, chair of Baltimore’s commission said discussions of the local monuments were civil.

“I was very proud of the city, proud of the residents and I think on behalf of the commissioner; it was really an honor to serve in the process,” he said.

Bryant, who is a photography curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, said this was an opportunity for the city to come together to talk about history and race.

“To bring the city together to discuss these issues was really important to me,” he said calling the conversation fascinating.

The Baltimore commission’s report comes as the Frederick city government tries to figure out what to do with a bust of Taney that gazed on the City Hall courtyard for decades.

The city aldermen voted to remove the bust.  But according to the New York Times, no one else seems to want it.  

Special Commission to Review Baltimore's Public Confederate Monuments