I thank City Paper for sharing the short radio piece I produced with my colleague Mark Gunnery for The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January (“Why Does Baltimore Have So Many Confederate Monuments?”). But I cringed when I read my words (“I don’t think the City should tear down the Lee-Jackson Monument or the other Confederate monuments in Baltimore”) in the context of the recent racist shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
To clarify, I do believe it's crucial to remember our history in Baltimore, but I would not be upset if Baltimore's Confederate monuments were removed from our parks. In fact, I would be ecstatic if those monuments were replaced by someone to whom tribute is rarely made in our physical landscape, such as Harriet Tubman, whose life and work we rarely see fully represented and appreciated.
If you find it surprising that only one of Baltimore's four Civil War monuments honors the Union (which, by the way, was the only one of those monuments the city paid for), you may also find it hard to believe that "The City of Monuments" is home to only five monuments depicting black people, according to the Monument City blog. There are two monuments to Frederick Douglass, one outside the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Fells Point and another on Morgan State University's campus; one monument to Baltimore-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall outside of the Garmatz U.S. Courthouse on Pratt Street; the amazing Billie Holliday monument at Pennsylvania and LaFayette; and a monument dedicated to black soldiers outside of City Hall.