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Canton statue offers teachable moment | READER COMMENTARY

Surrounded by iron fencing, a statue of Capt. John O'Donnell (1749-1805) stands in the middle of O'Donnell Square Park nestled in the center of the commercial district of Canton. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Surrounded by iron fencing, a statue of Capt. John O'Donnell (1749-1805) stands in the middle of O'Donnell Square Park nestled in the center of the commercial district of Canton. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Regarding your editorial on the statue of Capt. John O’Donnell in Canton (“A thoughtful approach to diversity and inclusion in Baltimore,” Oct. 26), I have a suggestion for the community to consider.

First, take the statue off of the pedestal. Get rid of the pedestal and place the statue on the ground. This would enable us to see him as a man and not a hero. Second, alongside his statue place a statue of similar height of a prominent Black man from Southwest Baltimore.

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Third, create an exhibit that discusses the complex history of the Canton neighborhood, how it has evolved from a commercial area built on the labor of enslaved Africans to a working class, ethnic neighborhood and then to its current iteration as a gentrified enclave. In each era there are stories of progress and stories of injustice. Perhaps include a discussion of what the next iteration of the neighborhood might be and an interactive that allows people to state what they would like to see.

Without an understanding of the complexity of history, it is just as easy to vilify a person from the past as it is to make a hero of him. Use this opportunity to instruct, rather than to memorialize.

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John Durel, Baltimore

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