Public comment and hearing will take place this evening in Talbot County to discuss the removal of the Talbot Boys Monument. The debate over confederate monuments is not new, of course, and more and more of these monuments to systemic oppression (then and now) are thankfully being removed from county, state and federal properties.
Allow me to describe the statue being debated: A young soldier stands with a Confederate States of America flag on his left side. The flag unfurls behind him covering his back. Strangely enough, Longfellow’s poem “Excelsior” (latin for “ever upward”) was the inspiration for the statue. The poem depicts a young man’s courage and tenacity to continue his journey even when advised to stop and take refuge. However, the young traveler’s banner exclaims “Excelsior” while the Talbot Boy celebrates an emblem of a failed treasonist effort. I wonder how Longfellow would feel knowing his poem has been so misused.
The Talbot Boy’s Monument was dedicated in 1916 and as Comptroller Peter Franchot recently commented in the Talbot Spy: “…it was put up in 1916 at the height of the Jim Crow laws and it’s very clearly a message to African-American folks — on taxpayer property, which is the courthouse — that if you want equal justice you shouldn’t come because we’re glamorizing these Confederate soldiers.” He further stated “This statue unfortunately is a neon message to them: Don’t come to this courthouse, this publicly funded, taxpayer-funded courthouse, for equal justice because you’re not going to get it.”
In 2017, the former Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, ordered the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument prominently displayed atop a column 60 feet in the air. He stated in his now famous speech the monument’s sole purpose was to “literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present. And it is a bad prescription for our future.”
It is no accident where the confederate monuments were placed. Either atop a column 60 feet in the air or near the steps of a courthouse, the purpose is always the same: Intimidation.
I recently came across 1860 Maryland census data. It listed the total number of enslaved and free African Americans in every Maryland county. And it listed something else. In 1860, Talbot County had 506 slaveholders.
There is no monument to these 506 slaveholders and there shouldn’t be to those who fought to maintain their evil enterprise.
Peter Franchot strikes the right chord. “…could we please do the right thing and remove this?”
Sharon Blugis is an Anne Arundel County activist. She and her husband live in Annapolis.