Dear Ms. Price,
In response to your letter to the Star Democrat on Feb. 3, 2021, the Move the Monument Coalition appreciates your willingness to engage in conversation to find a path forward on the future of the Confederate monument on Talbot County’s courthouse lawn. We have consistently sought to engage the Council, individually and as a whole, and continue to seek opportunities for constructive engagement.
Although we too seek unity, the basis for unity must be a truthful understanding of the context and meaning of the Talbot Boys Confederate statue. We believe the starting point is an understanding of the historical context of its erection, what the Confederate flag stands for today, and an examination and reconciliation of the history of racial injustice in Talbot County. In addition, the voices of African American residents must be elevated and play a central role in this discussion.
1. The cornerstone of the Confederacy was to maintain the right to own slaves and overthrow the US government to that end. In his Cornerstone Speech on March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens said:
[I]ts foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Confederate States dated March 11, 1861 states:
The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.
2. The Talbot Boys Confederate statue was erected as part of the Lost Cause, a movement to assert a romanticized version of the Confederacy that holds its role in the Civil War was a just and heroic one fought by honorable Christian men to save the Southern way of life and states’ rights and completely denies the central role of slavery and white supremacy as its cornerstone.
3. Context is everything. The Talbot Boys Confederate statue was dedicated in 1916, 51 years after the Civil War, at the height of Jim Crow racial segregation. This was part of a spike in Confederate memorials during the early 1900s, soon after Southern states enacted a number of sweeping laws to disenfranchise Black Americans and segregate society. More than 400 monuments were erected in this period as part of an organized strategy, spearheaded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), to reshape Civil War history. “Their goal, in all the work they did, was to prepare future generations of white Southerners to respect and defend the principles of the Confederacy.” * They rejected any school textbook that said slavery was the central cause of the Civil War, they praised the Ku Klux Klan and gave speeches that distorted the cruelty of American slavery and defended slave owners. (*From Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by Karen Cox, University of Florida 2003.)
4. An examination of Talbot County history must include the history of the experience of African Americans, including slavery, Jim Crow segregation, attempted lynchings, racial terror and discrimination. This issue must be viewed first and foremost from the viewpoint of the African American citizens of Talbot County, many of whom are descendants of people who were enslaved and even after being freed, suffered under racial oppression.
5. The Talbot Boys Confederate monument must be viewed in today’s context. The Confederate flag is a clear symbol of white supremacy as it featured prominently in 2015 when Dylan Roof murdered nine Black parishioners, in 2017 in the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Finally, we agree that the Talbot Boys Confederate statue has historical value. It should be moved to a place where historians can place it in context like a museum. But it should not be on the grounds of the Talbot County Courthouse where justice is meted out.
We agree that education of our community on this issue is important. To that end, we invite folks to attend our virtual Zoom event on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. on the Lost Cause. To register, visit: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pcOigqj8tGNKTpRXsg7qvCE1jxkqoyXBY
Denice Lombard is a member of the Move the Monument Coalition