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General Assembly votes to scrap ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’ state’s pro-Confederate official state song

It’ll soon be so long to the state song after the Maryland Senate unanimously voted to scrap “Maryland, My Maryland!” as the Old Line State’s official anthem.

The pro-Confederate Civil War-era tune features lyrics that denigrate Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant” and call on Maryland to join the South in fighting “the Northern scum.” Penned in 1861 and set to the melody of “O Tannenbaum,” it has been blasted by critics as racist and an embarrassment to the state.

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The vote late Friday cames after the House of Delegates likewise endorsed ditching the tune earlier this week, 94-38.

It leaves just a couple of steps before “Maryland, My Maryland” is stripped of the honored status it’s held since 1939. Previous efforts to ditch the song stretch back to the 1970s, but fell short.

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“Hallelujah,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the repeal effort in the Senate.

But Kagan called it “tragic” that it took so long to scrap the “offensive” song — and that it came only after years of Black Lives Matter demonstrations over racism and police brutality.

There’s no tune in line to replace “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song. Several earlier repeal efforts foundered amid quarrels over how to do so, either by rewriting the lyrics or adopting a new song. So, lawmakers this year chose to simply strike it from Maryland’s list of symbols.

“This has stained the pages of our law for too long,” Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, a Democrat from Dorchester and Wicomico counties who sponsored the song’s repeal in the House, said earlier in the week.

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The song’s violently pro-Southern lyrics — which bemoan “the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore,” a reference to pro-secession rioters killed in an infamous melee with Union troops marching through the city on their way to Washington — have increasingly driven the song out of favor in recent years.

For decades, it had featured prominently in national TV broadcasts of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore and in the football game day repertoire of the University of Maryland’s marching band.

Then, the bloodiest of the song’s nine verses vanished from performances. The Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band stopped playing the song in 2017, while the Maryland Jockey Club, which switched to only the song’s least-offensive third verse that year, decided to skip it for the 2020 Preakness.

It’s unclear where Republican Gov. Larry Hogan stands on the fate of the state song. His office, when asked about the song earlier in the week, responded by saying: “The governor will thoughtfully review any legislation that reaches his desk.”

Some Republicans in the House of Delegates who voted against repealing “Maryland, My Maryland” lamented that the song was falling victim to “cancel culture.”

But not a single state senator voted Friday night to keep it, with past defenders of the song coming around to advocate its repeal.

For Republican Sen. Michael Hough of Frederick County, it was the lyric’s sharp denunciation of Lincoln — “maybe our greatest president” and a venerated founding father of the Republican Party — that tipped his support.

Fellow Republican Robert Cassilly, who represents Harford County, said he’d hoped to preserve the song by cutting its offensive parts but realized that just couldn’t be done.

“It’s the wrong song,” said Cassilly.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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