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Maryland

Maryland’s last public Confederate statue to be removed from the Eastern Shore on Monday after years of debate

After decades of passionate debate, protests and lawsuits over its removal, a Confederate statue’s residence on Maryland’s Eastern Shore will come to an end Monday.

The century-old “Talbot Boys Statue,” located on the county courthouse lawn in Easton, is the state’s last public monument of Confederate figures who fought for the South during the Civil War. The copper sculpture features a 13-foot-tall boy holding a Confederate flag and lists the names of Talbot County men who joined the Confederacy and died in the war.

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Six months after the Talbot County Council voted to approve its removal, preparations to remove the statue were set to begin Sunday before a crane will remove the statue from its base Monday. It then will head to Cross Keys Battlefield in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where it will remain.

Hundreds of Talbot County residents, part of a group called Move the Monument Coalition, raised $80,000 to relocate the statue from its prominent courthouse display to a private park in the care of Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, a nonprofit.

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The county council voted 3-2 on Sept. 14 to remove the statue after the coalition garnered support from residents, national activist groups, high-profile politicians and celebrities. The resolution was a reversal from a 2020 council vote to keep the monument in place when one councilman, Frank Divilio, changed his vote in favor of removal.

“We’re all feeling very gratified and deeply grateful that the County Council made the decision that it made,” said Ridgely Ochs, a leading member of the Move the Monument Coalition.

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The controversial statue’s presence in the Eastern Shore was affirmed previously in a 2015 council decision not to remove the statue because the federal government recognizes Confederate soldiers as U.S. veterans, the council said at the time.

More than 100 Confederate monuments were renamed or removed in 2020 during the country’s civil rights movement following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Around 700 Confederate statues are positioned currently by government buildings and other public places throughout the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Talbot Boys Statue, dedicated in 1916, has been the subject of lawsuits in recent years. The ACLU sued Talbot County in 2021 over the monument, stating that the statue erected during the height of the Jim Crow era is a racist symbol that honors white supremacy and is consequently unconstitutional. The lawsuit, brought also by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, has since stayed.

The decision to remove the statute divided Talbot County residents. About 37,000 people live in the county, which is 81% white. A coalition called Save the Talbot Boys, formed in 2015, also received public support in its quest to preserve the statue’s position as a symbol of local history.

Now that the monument will finally come off its perch overlooking the courthouse lawn, county residents can work toward mending division while continuing to fight for racial equality in the criminal justice system, said Richard Potter Jr., president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP.

Potter hopes the county will commission a group of bipartisan residents in the future to select a replacement for the Confederate statue with a new monument dedicated to the Civil War and Talbot County that is not offensive to its residents.

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“This issue divided our county deeply,” Potter said. “We now have to go through a period of reconciliation and then move forward as a community.”


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