It’s time to unite America, and Juneteenth could be a day of appeasement and reconciliation. In Talbot County, some wish to honor Maryland soldiers who fought for the Confederate Army. Others feel embarrassed by a symbol of segregation on the lawn of the City Court House. Can we find a solution? Yes, we can, but first, let’s pull apart our passions and understand what Talbot Boys and Move the Monument represent.
Let’s be honest; we all know that the statue is not a harmless monument. It was built in 1916, crowning a chain of segregation hostilities against recently freed slaves. In 1870, five years after the Union Army liberated the last slaves in Galveston, Texas, the Maryland Congress rejected the Fifteen Amendment, which assured African Americans voting rights. And more, three amendments were proposed to our state Constitution limiting African Americans’ right to vote: the Poe Amendment (1905), the Strauss Amendment (1908), and the Digges Amendment (1910). All of them were rejected by Maryland voters, indicating that the majority did not support racist proposals.
Unfortunately, right after the Civil war, former slaves were free but separated. Jim Crow times. African Americans, war heroes or not, had limited access to schools and were restricted to assigned seats in trains, steamboats, and streetcars. In 1884, the Maryland legislature passed laws making interracial marriage a punishable crime, and in 1910, a Baltimore city ordinance prohibited African Americans from buying or living in houses on blocks where most occupants were white. Tough times for African Americans, and those were the days when monuments were erected all over the Southern states, celebrating the Confederate States Army. One of them, the South Defenders Monument in Lake Charles, Louisiana, is an exact twin statue of the Talbot Boys and was funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy. An organization that also financed a Ku Klux Klan monument in Concord, North Carolina.
The purpose of the statue we have on the lawn of the City Court House was not to honor civil war soldiers but to perpetuate the principles of secessionism. And its days are over. If not now, it’s just a matter of time. The more African Americans are empowered, and the more non-African Americans understand what it represents, the louder the pressure will be for moving the monument. Why wait? The statue symbolizes hate and brings to the African American community memories of shame and suffering. Do we really need it?
It’s also true, however, that the Civil War is an essential part of our history, and we should celebrate those who fought in it. Maryland and Talbot County are in a unique position. We were in the middle ground and had fighters from both sides. We could respect the memory of Lloyd Tilghman, a hero for the Confederates born in Claiborne, and we should also celebrate the eighteen former slaves from Unionville who fought for the Union and beat General Lee in Appomattox. They were all from Talbot County, and they bravely fought for their beliefs. Thanks to their pain and blood, we now sing the same National Anthem and pledge allegiance to the flag and the indivisible nation it represents. It does not matter if they died or survived; it does not matter if they won or lost, and it doesn’t matter if their skin was black or white. We should honor them all. They were all Americans.
A proposal exists to build another statue for the Union soldiers near the Talbot Boys. Still, it is not a solution since it will perpetuate an undesirable division. A better solution, consistent with our history and respectful of our sentiments, would be to replace the Talbot Boys with a monument to all Maryland soldiers who fought in the Civil War. We have a whole future ahead of us, and our actions will pave the way for our children. We do not need resentments and unnecessary disagreements. We must preserve an indivisible Talbot of which all of us could be proud.