Statue debate: Tubman, Hanson backers make case

Sen. Catherine Pugh at a hearing today urged her fellow lawmakers to support a proposal to place a statue of Harriet Tubman in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall Collection.

Each state can have only two representatives, and since 1903, Maryland's have been John Hanson, a president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.

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Pugh's proposal, promoted by the NAACP and National Organization of Women, means that Hanson would have to go. Tubman, an Eastern Shore-born slave who led dozens to freedom on the Underground Railroad, would be the 10th woman and only African American in the collection.

"History changes. Time changes. Everything changes," said Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat. "This country has progressed."

Gov. Martin O'Malley supports the Tubman proposal. A House of Delegates committee also held a hearing today on the matter.

At the Senate hearing, Hanson descendant and scholar Peter Michael called Hanson "the only Marylander to serve in the nation's highest office."

Michael suggested that Maryland "take the lead" by asking Congress to expand the collection to allow more than two statues per state. Some lawmakers on the committee seemed supportive of that idea.

"I don't like the idea that we're going to take a Marylander like John Hanson out," said Roy Dyson, a St. Mary's County Democrat.

But many of the Tubman supporters said state lawmakers should focus on the parameters Congress has given them. The president of the Maryland NOW chapter said she was offended by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's suggestion that Congress make a separate collection for additional statues. (Miller, a Southern Maryland Democrat, is a Hanson supporter.)

Moonyene Jackson-Amis, an Easton resident, said the issue of whether to trade statues is simple in her mind: "I want to see somebody who looks like me."

(Photo by The Sun's Kim Hairston)

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