Pugh seeks 'creative ideas' to replace Baltimore's Confederate monuments

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday it cost the city “less than $20,000” to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces in Baltimore this month, and some parties have expressed interest in acquiring them.

“We’ve got several issues to address, including where they ultimately go,” Pugh said. “We’ve gotten several inquires with regards to one of the statutes. We’ve gotten a call from a lady who wants to buy them.”

The mayor said a cemetery has also asked about acquiring the four monuments that crews working for the city removed overnight Aug. 15 and 16. She did not give the names of any of the parties that she said have showed interest.

Pugh has appointed a task force of city workers to decide where the statues should go and what “creative ideas” should replace them.

The task force is chaired by Colin Tarbert, the city’s deputy chief of strategic alliances. Members include Jackson Gilman-Forlini, the historic properties program coordinator in the city’s Department of General Services; Bill Gilmore, the director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts; and Eric Holcomb, the director of the Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation.

The city has set up a website — https://www.promotionandarts.org/arts-council/public-art — through which the public can make suggestions about what should go in place of the monuments. Residents are encouraged to submit “creative ideas and responses” that “take into account the past, present, and future events of the monument locations, and the presence and narrative of the monuments’ relationship to the city.”

Pugh said she wasn’t sure when the task force would finish its work.

“There will be public meetings around this,” she said.

Pugh ordered the removal of the markers — a monument to Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Wyman Park Dell, a monument to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney at Mount Vernon Place, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue and the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway — days after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly. She said she was trying to avoid the potential for similar violence in Baltimore.

A neo-Nazi sympathizer in Charlottesville is accused of driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman, and two police officers who were monitoring the scene died when their helicopter crashed.

The event has spurred efforts nationwide to purge public spaces of symbols relating to the Confederacy.

After Pugh acted in Baltimore, the Maryland State House Trust voted to remove a statue of Taney from the lawn of the State House in Annapolis. It was taken down the next night. Taney, who was from Calvert County, wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery.

The University of Maryland marching band said Monday that it would “suspend” its longtime practice of playing “Maryland, My Maryland,” the official state song, before football games. The song, based on an 1861 poem by a Confederate sympathizer, served as a bloody call to action against President Abraham Lincoln and the “northern scum.”

Several lawmakers have said they will try once again to edit the song, rewrite it or scrap it altogether when the General Assembly reconvenes next year

Del. Antonio Hayes said he would sponsor legislation that would change the state song to honor Harriet Tubman, the Dorchester County native who freed dozens of enslaved people via the Underground Railroad.

The Baltimore Democrat also suggested a monument to Tubman would be a fitting replacement for one of the Confederate statutes.

"I’d like to see something that celebrates Baltimore's contribution to the state of Maryland,” Hayes said. “The Confederate monuments bring emotions out of people that are predominantly negative. We need some symbols of hope, celebration, and happiness — something that we can all celebrate.”

Del. Cory V. McCray, another Baltimore Democrat, suggested a statute of Clarence Du Burns, the city’s first African-American mayor.

The Confederate monuments are currently sitting in a city-owned lot. McCray said he hoped the mayor would not simply transfer them to another jurisdiction. He said he wants to see them destroyed.

“Melt them down," he said. “I’m not at the point where I would embrace taking them to a museum."

Del. Brooke Lierman, another Baltimore Democrat, said she was glad Baltimoreans now have a chance to help determine exactly what should replace the monuments.

“It's not every day that we get the opportunity to brainstorm as a city about what we want to commemorate for our our kids and grandkids to see,” she said. “In some ways the process could be as powerful as the outcome. It can be used as a way to bring communities together and find common ground.”

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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