A Maryland panel voted Monday to remove a plaque from Maryland’s Capitol that honors the Civil War’s Union and Confederate soldiers and until recently showed the U.S. flag and Confederate flag crossed.
The four members of the State House Trust, which oversees the Maryland State House and its grounds voted to remove the plaque after Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones renewed her push to get rid of it — after the panel decided last year to cover the flags with an image of Maryland’s state flag. Jones continued pushing for complete removal because of the sign’s language.
“I want to thank the State House Trust for this important vote today to remove this confederate-sympathizing plaque,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “We have made great strides to reflect the importance of African-Americans in our State's history over the past year.”
In February, Maryland unveiled bronze statues of famed abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, both of whom were born slaves on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Those statues are now in the Capitol’s Old House Chamber, the room where slavery was abolished in the state in 1864.
Jones, a Democrat who is Maryland’s first black and first female House speaker, renewed her push to remove the Civil War plaque last week.
“The past two weeks have reignited our national conversation about the systemic racial injustice that continues throughout the United States of America,” she wrote.
The other voting members of the State House Trust are Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Laura Mears, the chair of the Maryland Historical Trust. Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, voiced his support for removing the plaque last week.
Rutherford, a Republican who is black, indicated Friday that he would support removing the plaque if it were replaced with one reflecting Maryland’s history in the Civil War. But he withdrew his proposed amendment Monday.
“Seeing a lack of support, I will withdraw my amendment to the Speaker’s proposal and vote yes on her original proposal," Rutherford wrote Monday. "It is my sincere hope that our conversation about Maryland’s history — the good, the bad and the ugly — does not end here. The symbolism of simply removing a plaque, is insufficient to what this moment requires.”
Mears wrote in an email Monday that she agreed with Rutherford's sentiments that removing a plaque speaking to the state's division during the Civil War “will not help us to cure the injuries caused by that division.” However, she noted that she plays a special role on the panel and casts votes based on how alterations will affect the historic significance and physical integrity of the historic building.
“In so far as the proposed removal of the Civil War Centennial Commission plaque, installed in 1964, will have little to no effect on the architectural fabric of the State House and will not diminish the outstanding historic significance of the building, [Maryland Historical Trust] has no basis for opposing its removal,” she wrote.
The plaque was dedicated in 1964 by the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission to remember the nearly 63,000 Marylanders who served in the Union and more than 22,000 in the Confederacy.
The sign says in part that the commission “did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong, or to make decisions on other controversial issues.”
“By so doing it seeks to pay tribute to those who fought and died, as well as to the citizens who, during the Civil War, tried to do their duty as they saw it,” the plaque reads.