Mayor Pugh Assesses Removal of Confederate Monuments

Originally published to afro.com on May 4, 2017

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is looking to follow the lead of New Orleans in removing the city’s four Confederate monuments.

The four monuments are:

the Lee-Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell,
the Roger B. Taney Monument at Mt. Vernon Place,
the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Mt. Royal Avenue near Mosher Street, and
the Confederate Women of Maryland Monument at Bishop Square Park.
New Orleans removed four Confederate monuments over the last month. The mayor’s intention was first reported by the Baltimore Sun

Mayoral spokesman Anthony McCarthy told the AFRO that Pugh is studying a task force report commissioned by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“She is looking for several options in regard to the recommendations for the statues,” he said.

A task force was convened by Rawlings-Blake shortly after the June 2015 shooting of nine parishioners by a White supremacist at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C.

In its report, the task force recommended removing the Lee Jackson and Taney monuments and keeping the other two in place.

In the short term, Rawlings-Blake asked for the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, CHAP, to develop interpretive signs for the four monuments. She did not order the outright removal of the monuments, citing costs and logistical concerns.

Terry Klima, commander of the Maryland division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said rather than tearing the monuments down, the city should provide a more complete history of both sides of the Civil War.

He called the interpretive signs placed at the monuments by CHAP biased and not historically accurate.

“I think they tried to spin a narrative about racism which I don’t believe those monuments represent or had anything to do with,” Kilma said.

Using the example of the sign at the Lee Jackson Monument – named after two confederate generals – Kilma said that Robert E. Lee never owned slaves personally and Stonewall Jackson taught Black children in Virginia to read at a time when it was illegal to do so—that’s in addition to supporting a Black Sunday School.

“To me those would be important stories that would be told to give a balanced view of who these people are and why a number of people think they are great Americans,” said Kilma who added slavery was only one part of the Civil War.

Kilma further said he was concerned about the erasing of history. But McCarthy, Pugh’s spokesman, said the mayor “is not looking to remove history or rewrite it.

There is a process to removing the monuments. The task force report explains the legal and procedural requirements to do so.

John Coleman, spokesman for the Maryland Historical Trust, said the city must ask the director of the trust for permission before undertaking any work that would change or alter the monuments.

“Any proposed physical relocation of a monument would constitute such a change or alteration for which prior approval would be necessary,” said Coleman.

Coleman added that the trust would expect the city to submit a request that details their proposal which would be first reviewed by a committee comprising members of the trust’s staff. That committee would then make a recommendation to the director of the trust.

“The director would then decide whether to approve, deny, or conditionally approve the request,” said Coleman. “Following the director’s decision, the city would have the right under the easement to appeal the decision to the board of trustees of [the trust.]”