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Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones: Civil War plaque should be removed from State House

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones wants a plaque removed from the State House that pays tribute to both Union and Confederate soldiers who served and died in the Civil War.

“The message projected by this plaque does not seek to correctly document history but instead sympathizes with Confederate motivations and memorializes Confederate soldiers,” Jones wrote in a letter Thursday to members of the State House Trust, which oversees alterations to the historic capital building and its grounds.

Jones, a Democrat, sits on the State House Trust, along with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, and Laura Mears of the Maryland Historical Trust. Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to represent his seat on the State House Trust.

Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan and Rutherford, both Republicans, said the request was being reviewed. A spokesman for the Maryland Historical Trust said it was reviewing the letter, too.

Miller, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Jones’ request represents one of her first official actions since she was elected speaker on May 1. An African-American woman from Baltimore County, she is the first presiding officer of the General Assembly who is not a white man.

The plaque in question is affixed to a wall near the Old House of Delegates Chamber on the first floor of the State House. It was dedicated in 1964 by the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission.

The top of the plaque features the American flag and the Confederate flag crossed over the words, “Maryland Remembers.”

The plaque features small type that says its purpose is to ensure that Maryland “leaves for posterity evidence for her remembrance of her nearly 63,000 native sons who served in the Union forces and the more than 22,000 in those of the Confederacy in the War Between the States.”

The plaque notes that members of the centennial commission “did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong, or to make decisions on other controversial issues.”

The plaque goes on to note “the citizens who, during the Civil War, tried to do their duty as they saw it.”

Jones wrote that the State House should reflect history as it happened and “not what some may have wished it would be.”

“History clearly tells us that there was a right and a wrong side of the Civil War and ‘doing their duty as they saw it’ does not give a pass to the cause these soldiers fought for,” Jones wrote.

The trust would need to approve the removal of the plaque, just as it voted to remove a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney from the grounds of the State House in 2017.

Miller had objected to the removal of the statue and abstained from that vote. He said at the time that the placement of a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights champion, on the other side of the State House in 1996 reflected a compromise and served to balance the Taney statue.

Taney was the author of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and said black Americans could not become citizens.

His statue was removed under the cover of darkness on an August night. Statues linked to the Confederacy and slavery were removed around the country, including in Baltimore, that summer after a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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