Some Talbot County officials want to construct a “unity statue” to memorialize both sides from the Civil War amidst calls to remove a century-old Confederate memorial from the county’s courthouse grounds.
A rough sketch of the proposed statue, shown by Talbot County Councilman Frank Divilio (R) during a Tuesday night meeting, features two boys, one holding a Confederate flag and another holding a Union flag, facing each other.
“I think the community can get behind coming together,” Divilio said.
County council members also introduced a resolution to remove the Talbot Boys statue, a Confederate memorial that sits in front on the Talbot County courthouse lawn in Easton, at their Tuesday night meeting. The resolution would also prohibit statues depicting people, signs and symbols associated with military action on Talbot County property.
“I do feel that is time,” Council President Corey W. Pack (R), who introduced the resolution, said. “This county has reached a point where we have to say what we mean.”
The Confederate Talbot Boys statue stands less than a half-hour drive north of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge.
The Talbot Boys monument includes a figure holding an unfurled Confederate battle flag. That battle flag has long been used to represent southern heritage, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but also is used as a symbol of racism and white supremacy.
Maryland, which largely encircles the nation’s capital, remained part of the Union. But, as a border state with many slave-holding families, some Marylanders sided with and sent soldiers to fight for the Confederacy.
The Talbot Boys monument memorializes 85 Talbot County residents who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Calls to remove Confederate memorials and statues have grown across the United States in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality. Many see monuments to the Confederacy as racist symbols which promote white supremacy.
Confederate monuments across the United States have been toppled by anti-racist protesters in recent weeks, including in Washington, D.C., where protesters pulled down the city’s only outdoor Confederate statue.
Divilio’s proposed joint monument would list all of the people from Talbot County who served in the Civil War, instead of just those who served on the Confederate side. He said the idea is partly based on the Civil War monument to Maryland in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That statue features Confederate and Union soldiers helping each other on the battlefield.
The Talbot Boys statue has come under particular scrutiny from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who has railed against the Confederate monument on social media.
“There are times to compromise and there are times to go the last mile to do what’s right. Half-measures will not suffice here,” Franchot wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. “The Talbot Boys Monument is a tribute to white supremacy, slavery and treason – nothing more and nothing less. It must be taken off the lawn of the Talbot County courthouse, never to be seen again.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also has called for the statue’s removal. He recently sent a letter to the county council urging them to take action on the Confederate monument.
“As you know, the Talbot Boys statue sits outside the Talbot County Circuit Courthouse where the mission is to deliver equal justice under the law,” Van Hollen wrote in the letter. “Having a monument to those who fought to preserve slavery outside this local historic landmark undermines that message.”
Council members were divided over the proposed removal of the statue. Councilwoman Laura E. Price (R) decried the abrupt move to remove the statue, and said the council should not be influenced by “an angry national movement.”
Price and Divilio urged council members to conduct a county-wide poll on removing the statue. The resolution will be subject to public hearings next month so county residents can comment on the removal of the memorial.
Other local governments in Maryland and across the country also have taken steps to remove Confederate monuments, which many people see as promoting white supremacy. In Wicomico County, a plaque honoring Confederate Gen. John Winder was removed this month. Monuments in Wilmington, North Carolina were removed late Wednesday night.