Thursday, September 8, 2016

Past and Future Monuments of the Monumental City:

Finding our Way

Edward Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired

September 8, 2016 - 6:30pm, Maryland Historical Society


Baltimore is home to 246 monuments and public artworks earning it the moniker, “The Monumental City”. The recent uproar over the fate of four of the city’s sculptures, such as the Lee and Jackson monument, prompts us to reevaluate how we think about and teach history. Should the monuments be melted down (as King George III's statue was in 1776), moved, or interpreted in place? Making use of the collections of the Society and other historical institutions in and out of Baltimore, this illustrated lecture will offer some reflections and concrete suggestions for how we may think and teach about Baltimore city’s monuments, both past and present.


On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in New York in front of George Washington and his troops. In reaction to what had been read, soldiers and citizens went to Bowling Green, a park in Manhattan, where a lead statue of King George III on horseback stood. The mob of people pulled down the statue, and later the lead was melted down to make musket balls, or bullets for use in the war for independence. Careful records were kept, and it is known that 42, 088 bullets were made. Ironically the statue was commissioned to celebrate the repeal of the hated stamp tax, but its meaning was lost in the heat of the moment inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s castigation of King George III in the Declaration of Independence.

Caption source:

Baltimore is home to 246 monuments and public artworks earning it the moniker, “The Monumental City”. The recent uproar over the fate of four of the city’s sculptures, such as the Lee and Jackson monument, prompts us to reevaluate how we think about and teach history. Should the monuments be melted down (as King George III's statue was in 1776), moved, or interpreted in place? Making use of the collections of the Society and other historical institutions in and out of Baltimore, this illustrated lecture is intended to offer some reflections and concrete suggestions for how we may think and teach about Baltimore city’s monuments, both past and present.

Recently my wife and I were in Paris, the city of light, a city of countless monuments and parks including equestrian and larger than life statues to long since dead princes and revolutionaries that slaughtered hundreds, if not thousands, in their quest for power. Indeed some of the monuments once gracing Paris are no more.

For example this statue of Camille Desmoulins, [Cameel dee-mouleh] once displayed on the grounds of what is now part of the the Louvre, was melted down by the Nazis in 1942. Without question Desmoulins is a controversial figure, some might even dub him a terrorist, consumed in the great terror that he helped ignite in Paris during the French Revolution, but is that an excuse for destroying his statue?

While we were in Paris we walked about the neighborhood where we were staying in search of Jefferson Square. It was a bright and sunny day. Children were at play in a space shared with a disparate collection of monuments.

In fact there was no clear monument to Thomas Jefferson, except the park itself with but a brief explanation as to why it was named so (perhaps because Parisians assume everyone knows).

At one end of the park, near where the American author Edith Wharton had her Paris apartment with its intriguing brass knocker,

there is a monument to Americans who fought for France during the First World War, while tucked to one side

is this bust of an individual to whom anyone who has ever visited a dentist owes a great debt. He was an American who discovered that anesthesia could really help with teeth extraction, even though personally he became a drug addict and died of an overdose.

In yet another Paris park there is this remarkable statue that is also left largely uninterpreted for the observer, although in this park devoted to children it can be identified on the web as a statue of Fontaine and the Aesop fable for which perhaps he is most famous, the crow, the cheese, and the fox. We were there on a day when the park was filled with what appeared to be well-behaved children, some of whom were learning nursery rhymes in a day care center in the park. What they thought or imagined about this monument is not known, but I suspect that they asked. Wouldn’t you?

The fable re-told by Fontaine is an appropriate reminder that the reasons why a monument might be erected to commemorate something that is no longer thought appropriate by many, might instead teach a lesson that is appropriate for all. Consider the cheese the truth about to be consumed by the crow, but desired by the hungry fox.

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Vols. X–XI: French

The Crow and the Fox

By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)

From “Fables”

A MASTER crow, perched on a tree one day,

Was holding in his beak a piece of cheese.

A master fox, by th’ odor drawn that way,

Spake unto him in words like these:

“Good-morning, my Lord Crow!


How well you look, how handsome you do grow!

Upon my honor, if your note

Bears a resemblance to your coat,

You are the phÅ“nix of the dwellers in these woods.”

At these words does the crow exceedingly rejoice;


And, to display his beauteous voice,

He opens a wide beak, lets fall his stolen goods.

The fox seized on’t, and said, “My dear good sir,

Learn you that every flatterer

Lives at the expense of him who hears him out.


This lesson is well worth some cheese, no doubt.”

The crow, ashamed, and much in pain,

Swore, but a little late, they’d not catch him again.


In the course of our brief stay we visited a number of other monuments in the city, although we did not make it to Jim Morrison’s grave this time.

One of the more visible, but least accessible was this horse and rider with upheld sword that we first experienced in heavy traffic from the rear. It turned out to be George Washington leading a charge, but why it was placed there, who created it, and how it got there remains a mystery unexplained in the guidebooks to Paris.

Not long ago, the out-going Mayor of Baltimore created a commission to advise her on what actions to take with regard to four monuments in the "Monumental City" that were created to memorialize a Chief Justice of the United States, two Generals who fought for the Confederacy, the Marylanders (some 20,000+ by the best estimate) who went South to fight for the Confederacy, and one to the wives, sweethearts, and other women in Maryland who supported and sympathized with them. All were created with varying degrees of private funds and placed on land that was, or became, public.

They are:

Roger B. Taney Monument (1887)

Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903)

Confederate Women’s Monument (1919)

Lee-Jackson Monument (1948)

For an excellent brief history of the monuments and the contemporary controversies that surrounded them, anyone interested should read Baltimore Heritage’s Eli Pousson's testimony to the Mayor's Commission which is available on line at:!historical-research/c160p


For the all the monuments of the city, Cindy Kelly, with photographs by Edwin Remsberg, provides a concisely written introduction and brief histories in her book:

Outdoor sculpture in Baltimore : a historical guide to public art in the monumental city


Cindy Kelly; Edwin Harlan Remsberg


Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

Cindy Kelly’s book is a fascinating and dispassionate view of all the monumental art of the City. Anyone interested in the stories of the art and monuments of the city should own a copy.

For those who would like to quickly visualize the monuments of Baltimore there is also a photostream on Flickr without explanation to pique your curiosity:

The arguments as to what to do with the four Confederate monuments proved to be all over the map. One argument is obliterate them. Another is to move them from where they are to a more suitable place (wherever that may be). Another, made in jest, was to exile them to Fort Carroll in the Bay, a fort designed by an Army Engineer named Robert E. Lee (one and the same) and named for one of the largest slave owners in Maryland, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, at one time perhaps the largest slaveholder in Maryland. In many ways the naming of the fort designed to defend Baltimore Harbor after Charles Carroll was itself an ironic choice, as Charles Carroll of Carrollton owned British Navy Stock at the time of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and you could say, helped pay for the bombs that burst over the fort on that fateful night in September 1814.

After the deliberations of the Mayor’s Commission, only two of the four monuments remain the apparent center of controversy and targeted for removal, the Taney statue and the Lee/Jackson memorial.

The other two are devoted to remembering a significant portion of the Maryland public that supported the South and Slavery during the war. History has judged them as wrong to have done so and they did engage in a lost cause, but their surviving generations surely have a right to remember their ancestor’s sacrifices and to learn from the error of their ways through interpretation of the monuments in their honor.

I would like to suggest that we should approach public monuments with less passion for destruction and more emphasis on what they can do for us in a city that at least as early as 1823, as Architectural Historian Lance Humphries has documented, has been known as monumental. Certainly that is far better than its other nickname of Mob-Town which had its origins in the actions of a mob in November 1807 that attacked the home of a famous Baltimore Lawyer, Luther Martin. Martin had just returned from Richmond where he had been one of the successful defense team that had convinced the chief Justice of the United States not to hang the disgraced former Vice President of the United States for treason.

Aaron Burr, now the villain of one of the most popular musicals ever staged in America, along with Martin and Chief Justice John Marshall were hanged in effigy on Gallows Hill (a plot of land at the intersection of Chase, Asquith, and Harford Road that today is a small park with two trees and no signage or monument).[1] Martin fumed in the Federal Gazette, a local newspaper, that if Baltimore weren’t careful if would become known for its mobs. It certainly has.

But Baltimore is also known for the number and variety of its monuments, as described and illustrated in Cindy Kelly’s book, including the two most prominent, the Washington Monument on Mt. Vernon Place, and the Battle Monument on North Calvert Street. Lance Humphries has traced the history of the nickname, Monumental City, back to an 1823 newspaper article that preceded John Quincy Adam’s better known use of the term a year later, while Johns Hopkins University historian Mary Ryan has written an intriguing article entitled

Democracy Rising: The Monuments of Baltimore, 1809-1842

  1. Mary P. Ryan
  1. Johns Hopkins University,

The abstract of her article points out that

On July 4, 1815 the citizenry of Baltimore, Maryland laid the cornerstone for what would become the first Washington Monument. A few months later, just a few blocks away, ground was broken for a second monument, called the Battle or the Baltimore Monument, which celebrated the ordinary citizens and soldiers who died defending the city during the War of 1812. These two monuments expressed rival political ideologies and reflected the clashing interests that hovered around them in urban space. It was the Battle Monument, rooted in more local, plebian, and essentially urban political culture, that came to best represent democratic ideals and to anchor them in the public space where they could be put into practice.

Dr. Ryan has a point, but whether or not the battle monument came to represent democratic ideals anchored in a public urban place where they could be put into practice, may be stretching its history and influences a bit too far. Indeed, the Washington Monument was built by those who favored Washington’s Federalist views of the nation and for the most part was supported and built by the wealthy elite of the city. The Battle Monument was built with leftover borrowed funds raised for the defense of Baltimore against the British in September 1814, and some public subscription. Its supporters were broad based including those who contributed to the Washington Monument and those who encouraged , perhaps even led, the mob that attacked Luther Martin’s home eight years before. The purpose of the Washington Monument was to glorify one man and his contributions to the creation of the nation. The purpose of the Battle Monument was to memorialize those who defended the City and the Nation against foreign invasion.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Maryland Historical Society, the original victory, also now known as Lady Baltimore, who was placed atop the Battle Monument, has been preserved for all to see on display at the Society. A few of us think she may be modeled on the architect’s wife, Eliza Crawford Godefroy, the first woman to publish a general interest magazine, and as such it is also a monument to another kind of battle, the battle for the political and intellectual equality of women.

Monuments in urban places are usually erected to commemorate a specific historical event and/or individuals who in some way have contributed to the history of the city. Mayors sometimes get statues, as do military figures. They are the creation of a moment in the past and need to be treated as such, while appreciating the public spaces they occupy. Sometimes they are truly works of art and sometimes they are truly mystifying having little but their artistic value to recommend them.

From the City Paper, article by Michael Farley, The much-hated 'Male/Female' statue at Penn Station is in fact Baltimore's kinkiest artwork, February 5, 2015, photograph from: Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Art

To me a perfect example of the latter is the prominent landmark in front of Penn Station. But for the most part monuments in the monumental city are part of the fabric of the city’s history, placed there to help us remember the past and to adorn a public space in which their real significance is to be objects of deposit for the birds and bemusement of those who run, and play, and eat their lunches nearby. To be sure, the better the monument in terms of its beauty (in the eye of the beholder) and its design, the more likely the visitor will want to know how it came to be there, but for the most part monuments act collectively as they do in Paris to enhance and preserve public open space that is meant for the enjoyment and appreciation by all, not necessarily for what the monument was originally intended for, perhaps, but for the inner peace and reflection that public spaces can provide despite why the monument was placed there in the first place.

Any of us can object to the reasons why a monument is placed in a public space, whether or not it was created with private funds and placed on public land, as were the Taney and Lee/Jackson monuments. But once planted let it remain there as a source of interest, education, and even bemusement.

Source: NYT, 9/5/2016

Chief Justice Taney, shown here as a bust on the Frederick County courthouse lawn in a photograph taken from a recent New York Times article, did write one of the worst opinions in the history of the Supreme Court (Dred Scott), one which he hoped would save the nation, but instead added fuel to the fire that consumed several hundred thousand lives. As the New York Times put it in his obituary, published on October 14, 1864, just after Maryland voted to abolish slavery, “that decision itself, wrong as it was, did not spring from a corrupt or malignant heart. It came, we have the charity to believe, from a sincere desire to compose, rather than exacerbate, sectional discord. But yet it was none the less an act of supreme folly, and its shadow will ever rest on his memory.”[2]

Orchard Street Church, source:

But Taney, as a lawyer practicing in Frederick, Maryland, also eloquently and successfully defended the Methodist minister who founded Orchard Street Church in Baltimore from a charge of disturbing the peace and inciting a slave rebellion, among a raft of other cases in which he defended free blacks and slaves.

New York Times, 9/5/2016

In September 1931, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, son of an abolitionist minister, unveiled the bust of Justice Taney in front of the Frederick Court House, which today has also been the center of controversy. He saw Taney on the whole as a ‘great Chief Justice,’ an ‘invincible spirit,’ whose long career as chief justice should be taken into account.[3]

As the Wilson Quarterly put it in 2010:

Supreme Court justice Roger B. Taney infamously described black as "beings of an inferior order," but … called slavery "a blot on our national character."

The full quote reads:

[Slavery] is a blot on our national character, and every real lover of freedom, confidently hopes that it will be effectually, though it must be gradually, wiped away; and earnestly looks for the means, by which this necessary object may best be attained. —Roger B. Taney, 1819

Taney owned slaves (which he freed in 1818 long before he became Chief Justice and never purchased another)[4], but he also firmly believed in the Union, and was highly esteemed by even his most ardent opponent on the bench, Justice Benjamin Curtis, who strongly dissented from Taney’s Dred Scott decision arguing that Dred Scott was a citizen of the United States as were all blacks not then held in bondage.[5] Curtis did remark at the onset of his eulogy that at the time of his own appointment to the bench, the Chief Justice was then 73, an age that “the Scripture admonishes us and the experience of mankind proves, it is best for most men to seek that repose which belongs to old age,” in other words retirement. If Taney had retired, it is likely he still would have had statues in his honor for what he already had accomplished, but not ones shrouded in the controversy that marks those in place today.

The Rinehart statue of Roger Brooke Taney in Annapolis and Baltimore.

State House, 1872, recast for Baltimore, 1887

In addition to his bust in Frederick, there are two monumental statues to Justice Taney, both privately created with funding from Henry Walters, a southern sympathizer whose family has given us one of the finest museums in the country, with free admission to all. Both statues are in park settings. One faces Mount Vernon Square on the North and is an 1887 recast of the original placed on the State House grounds in 1871, where it is shaded by a tree dedicated to Martin Luther King and balanced by the memorial to Thurgood Marshall on the other side of the capitol.

Apart from those who would like to have all memory of Taney eradicated from both places, most people who visit either place know little of the man in bronze seated above them in judicial robes, or of the internationally known artist, William Henry Rinehart (1825-1874), who created them. Perhaps they should.

The Maryland State Archives has implemented better signage on the State House grounds for the Annapolis statue of Taney, with emphasis on the Dred Scott decision.

The addition of a cell phone readable bar code that leads to more information and discussion online is currently being considered.[6]

The strength of a nation lies in its ability to admit the sins of its past and to place them in the context of a lesson on why we can, and need to do better, while at the same time letting the monumental art of the past assist and supplement that process. That does not mean that the art necessarily celebrates as originally intended. Instead, at minimum it informs, and challenges us to think as to why and how it got there in the first place.

For those who would like to know more of the specifics of how such monuments came to be placed where they are and who the artists were that created them, the city and the state should use the power of app read signage (interpreted by apps on our android and iphones) and social media for smart phones to explain its historic places, monuments, and public spaces. There isn't a child of 4 and above who isn't familiar with, and probably has access to a smartphone, if only for games. To answer the question “Mommy why is this statue here, or who is that funny old man sitting in a chair” recourse to a monumental city app that tells you as much as you may want to know and more about any monument in the city would be a worthwhile community investment and a better use of tax dollars than removal. The cost of producing such signage is minimal. For example the readable label (qr code), such as the one I created for Baltimore’s Taney statue, can be produced for free and etched into permanent metal signage

If you place a free app such as the i-nigma reader ( on a cell phone or have QR barcode reader already, it can be pointed to the above qr code and you will be taken you to a site where you can learn more about the statue. All it needs is to be linked, as this one is, to a web site containing the information. With funding from the city, all the city’s monuments could be treated this way as a permanent web-based project of the Maryland Historical Society.


The Lee and Jackson Monument in Wyman Park is another example of where an information ap (and better signage including QR code links) could open up another whole world of understanding about the complex and often divided history of the Monumental City. Not everyone appreciates or agrees with the current signage on the monument, including at least one disgruntled Confederate general and a contemporary newspaper[7]:


But also few have heard of the author of those sentiments either …. He paid for the monument out of a trust fund set up for his sister’s use until she died in 1934.

The funding came from

J. Henry Ferguson, the [batchelor] banker who organized the Colonial Trust Company. In his will, he left specific instructions for a monument of his childhood heroes, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, which was gifted to the City of Baltimore. Although Ferguson died in 1928, the sculpture was not dedicated until 1948 due to various factors, including World War II.

The sculpture was made by Laura Gardin Fraser, who won the design competition for the commission in 1935. She commissioned the architect John Russell Pope (who designed the Baltimore Museum of Art directly north of the monument) to design the base of the monument. The sculpture was cast in 1946. The monument was dedicated on May 1, 1948,

Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966) was chosen over four male sculptors. A shortage of clay and metal during the Second World War delayed completion, but the result was an artistic accomplishment in a tradition of equestrian statues that reaches back to ancient times.[8]

Baltimore Sun photos, October 26, 1947. There are two opposing monuments in Wyman Park, one in memory of two generals of the Confederacy here shown being installed on one side of the park, and one in memory of Marylanders who served the Union on the opposite side of the park. The image on the left was taken in sculptor Fraser’s studio. This was a major commission for her and she was widely praised for how well she accomplished it. Photographs purchased for the author’s collection from the Sun..

From a historical standpoint, the importance of the monument is not so much the men and horses it depicts as the time (1948) when it was dedicated. 1948 was the presidential election year in which Strom Thurmond represented the racist wing of the Democratic Party (he became a Republican in 1964). Thurmond was the only Presidential candidate that year known to have visited the Lee/Jackson Monument during the campaign. The Baltimore Afro American was vocal in its opposition to the monument and Strom Thurmond’s visit, and most young people in the African American community supported one of the other presidential candidates, Henry Wallace, leader of the Progressives. They staged effective political protests including the effort to integrate the tennis courts in Druid Hill Park. While there is little monumental art in Druid Hill Park to commemorate those civil rights pioneers, perhaps there should be, linked to the story of the Lee/Jackson monument.

While the Lee/Jackson Monument is a work of art in itself that deserves appreciation, taking it away removes the memory also of a contentious time in the City’s history that deserves more attention, not less.


Also, the Lee/Jackson Monument is balanced on the other side of the park by an earlier monument (first dedicated in 1909) to the Union side in the Civil War that was moved there in 1959 to accommodate the Johns Falls Expressway. It is seen here with a community group in 2012 discussing how to make the park more inviting to the public.

The Lee/Jackson memorial was the last of the Civil War monuments erected in a city that was deeply divided over which side to support, Union or Secession.

Thomas Holliday Hicks

E. Anthony, publisher, c. 1860

MSA SC 4325-1-21

Indeed Maryland had a governor at the time (Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks) who even suggested that Maryland avoid the conflict and become independent, allied with neither side, but supported by Great Britain instead as neutral. He was nearly laughed out of town, but remained as governor until 1862 while Baltimore was occupied by Union troops. The story of his monument is an interesting one. A statue of him was commissioned in 1866 by German veterans of the Union Army and offered to the City. The City declined. For a long time it remained in a private garden in the city until, in 1897, after the garden was acquired by the Standard Brewing Company, efforts were again made to place it in a public park. After support was gained from both the City Council and the Maryland Legislature, it was finally placed in the Hallway of the Maryland Institute, only to be destroyed by the great Baltimore Fire of 1904, ending its usefulness as an historical lesson.[9]

In addition to better actual and virtual signage, perhaps the monuments and public art of the city could become a component of a required course on the art and history of the city that every public and private school child has to pass before graduating. In order for this to work well, the class could be taught on line at the same time throughout all public and private schools with the classroom teacher and his/her students interacting with the on-line teacher/presenter/instructor paid for by the City. At the present time a number of interactive on-line classes provided by major universities reach classes of thousands. Such a Baltimore City wide course could easily reach students in every 5th or 6th grade classroom in the city, public and private.

The April 2015 demonstrations in the Monumental City which revived charges of Baltimore as Mob-Town, and contributed to the demand for removal of monuments devoted to the memory of the pro-slavery lost cause, was unique in the annals of civil unrest in America. No shot was fired by either side, and no person was fatally injured, demonstrating to some that young people of a certain age do communicate well by social media and can use it effectively to move themselves out of harm’s way while staging a legitimate protest at the same time. Yes, drug dealers and others exploited the school aged children, and looting got out of hand, as almost always happens to legitimate protests in Maryland (the railroad strike of 1877 is one of the best historical examples of pushing a real need for productive discourse to unwarranted violence).[10]

Pull the monuments of the monumental city into the nexus of the next generation's understanding of why things got to where they are, and teach present and future generations what they have in the way of power to effect change, not by pulling down the monuments of the past, but by erecting new ones (virtually and physically), in the process telling the stories of the old ones in a way that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Motivate our children to be well educated, good citizens, and provide them with the opportunities to make good on their personal visions of success and achievement.

Source:, retrieved 2016/09/08

Recently the City staged a remarkable event called the LIght City, a variation of the nickname of Paris, the City of Light. One of the featured experiences related to Baltimore’s role in the domestic slave trade..

This last March, Baltimore found replicas of gaslights lining Pratt Street for Baltimore’s first Light City Festival, the artistic creation of Paul Rucker in collaboration with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. One reviewer, Bret McCabe, praised its impact on the attendees, while the subject, Baltimore’s involvement in the slave trade, was well documented on the web site, even though there were not enough printed handouts to go around during the festival:

Paul Rucker’s “In Light of History” does a fair job of tapping into the city’s checkered past. For “In Light” Rucker has installed a small street light at 11 places along Pratt Street that were sites of businesses involved in the slave trade. The light posts are modest, maybe six feet tall, and their lights are glowing areas that slowly change colors. Each lamppost supposedly had a pamphlet Rucker designed about this slave trade history, but even by 8:30 p.m. on Monday night I didn’t come across a single post that still had this publication in stock.

“In Light of History” is the lone Light City installation that I’ve come across thus far where the Inner Harbor’s overbearing presence amplifies the work’s thematic intent. Rucker’s lampposts are easy to walk right by and not even notice. Or you might see one and think it’s just a different kind of sandwich-board placard for one of Pratt Street’s many chain stores. Is this lamp telling me where the Starbuck’s is or where human beings profited from the selling of other human beings? Both.

Rucker’s performance on Monday night, however, was just a breath of fresh air. He set up with his solo cello right there at the Inner Harbor amphitheater where Light Street bends into Pratt, a pond of blinking star lights surrounding him. He announced that he wrote a piece of music for each of the sites in his installation and was going to play three of them, and the first went off without a hitch. The next two were plagued by technical difficulties—a looping pedal wasn’t working appropriately—and he eventually ended his set playing the prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 (I think, my classical music knowledge isn’t what it should be).

But despite the technical difficulties, Rucker was everything the festival needs more of: genuine joy, sincere interactions with attendees, and above all a respect for the intelligence of the general public. He talked about liking the family friendly festival because kids were up late and out of the house with their parents, and toward the end of his set he invited all of the age seven-and-under tykes up to grab one of the blinking stars that surrounded him, causing the kind of adorable chaos that ensues anytime a group of starter humans trundle about. He asked the crowd history questions—What year and amendment gave women the right to vote? (1920, the 19th Amendment) What year was the Emancipation Proclamation issued? (1863) What year did Maryland outlaw slavery? (1864)—and people yelled out answers. The entire set never once felt like an eager-to-entertain tourist sideshow, and was a brief moment of good-natured fun in the presence of a grown-up human who happens to be an artist.

Source: BMORE ART, March 31, 2016

Rather than this remain a transitory experience of short duration, I suspect Historian Ralph Clayton and I could suggest at least two public spaces where a permanent memorial to those slaves who passed through Baltimore could be erected along the lines of Paul’s work. One is at the small expanse of land on Pratt Street that was once part of the most notorious of slave pens in the city. The other is in Fells’ Point opposite the remains of Jackson’s wharf from which the ships carrying slaves to New Orleans departed.

Rather than pull down and move existing monuments, let’s shed more light on the history of our city monuments, and spend our public monies more wisely in better parks with new monuments, all the while doing a better job of maintaining, explaining and appreciating what we already have created and what we will create in the future.[11]

[1] Rasmussen, Frederick N. The Sun [Baltimore, Md] 28 Apr 2001. I am indebted to Rob Schoeberlein for this reference. According to LIBRARY ANSWERS QUERIES ON STATE: Maryland Department Can Tell Where ...

The Sun (1837-1987); Aug 22, 1937, the earliest documented public hanging on Gallows Hill dated from 1830, with the last in 1842 when execution by hanging was moved to the yard of the City jail. Clearly it was known as Gallows Hill long before that.

[2] Quoted by Don Fehrenbacher, Slavery, Law,and Politics, 1981, p. 298.

[3] Ibid., p. 304. Fehrenbacher does not have such a high opinion of Taney.

[4] More important, and telling, than his attempts to ameliorate the conditions of slaves and free blacks was Taney's emancipation of his own slaves. On July 14, 1818, before a justice of the peace in Frederick County, Taney affixed his signature in the court record book, paid the requisite transaction fees, and manumitted seven slaves. Clarissa and her infant daughter Mary Anne, as well as Polly (a "mulatto woman") and her infant daughter Elizabeth, all gained their freedom that day. Taney also provided for the eventual emancipation of Polly's three older children. Seven-year-old Mary would become free in 1836, at the age of twenty-five, while three-year-old John and five-year-old William would be free once they reached the age of thirty. Moreover, in 1820, together with his younger brother Octavius, Taney liberated two additional slaves who had been owned by their father. Over the next four years, Taney manumitted two more slaves—bringing the total number of slaves he freed to eleven. We must not underestimate these deliberate acts on behalf of freedom. While historians have lauded George Washington, for example, for liberating his slaves at his death, Taney did so at a relatively young age. Rather than keeping them in bondage or profiting from their sale, Taney chose to free all of his slaves except two, whom he later described as "too old, when they became my property, to provide for themselves." Unlike some Maryland emancipators, Taney never purchased other slaves to replace the ones he freed.**

[5] Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case, 1978, p. 717

[6] These two images of signage near the Annapolis Taney statue were supplied by Elaine Bachmann who has headed the effort to better interpret the State House and the State House grounds, including the Taney statute. Email of 9/8/2016.

[8] In her testimony before the Commission, Cindy Kelly writes:

The very rare choice of a woman sculptor to create the Lee and Jackson Monument can

still be celebrated today. Laura Gardin Fraser ‘s beautifully designed double equestrian

monument captures the very moment that Jackson has signaled to his horse to leave. The

drama of the moment depicted by the sculptor is heightened by the knowledge that

Jackson received a mortal wound in the battle that followed. This was only the second

double equestrian monument in the country, due in part to the great difficulty and cost of

designing and sculpting such a work of art. (6) Fraser worked very slowly and her

progress was further delayed by the difficulty of getting Italian clay during the 1940s and

the restrictions on the use of metal during the same time period. When it was finally

dedicated on May 1, 1948, this monument was considered such an important addition to

the city that the governor of Maryland, the mayor of Baltimore and other notable citizens

were among the 3,000 people who attended the dedication ceremony. (7)

In reflecting the unique history of Maryland and Baltimore during the Civil War era when

families lost sons fighting for both the Union and the Confederacy, these monuments

stand in remembrance of the human costs of that war on both sides of this conflict. They

serve as historical markers in Baltimore’s history and in the nation’s history as well. That

history cannot be changed but it can be better understood and learned from.

[9] I am indebted to Rob Schoeberlein for the documentation for this story of the Hicks statue.

[10] Perhaps more alarming than the violence of the protest and the destruction of private property in the long run however, was the limited vocabulary and lack of education evident in the social media “discourse” that was so prevalent during the mob action arising out the protest at Mondawmin Mall. See: The 2015 Baltimore Uprising, A Teen Epistolary, 2015.

[11] As Cindy Kelly pointed out in her testimony before the Special Commission to Review Baltimore's

Public Confederate Monuments,

“The challenge is to reach the right balance between promoting an honest picture of the past and respecting the needs of the present.” Racism and the sins of the past weigh heavy upon us in America, but we are no longer, and ought not to be, a people separated and unequal. We are one nation. We need to learn to treat each other with the respect that is our due. Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney struggled and failed to come to grips with what to do about slavery. We should remember him for his failures as well as his triumphs as a public servant. Monuments can help us do so in a way that no other medium can, if we choose to make the effort.