Maryland's first black House Speaker calls for Confederate plaque to be removed from state Capitol

Maryland's first black House Speaker calls for Confederate plaque to be removed from state Capitol
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Maryland’s new House Speaker, the first African American to hold the position, called on Thursday for the removal from the Maryland State House of a plaque commemorating Confederate soldiers, according to The Washington Post.

“History clearly tells us there was a right and a wrong side of the Civil War,” Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) wrote in a letter to the State House Trust, which is responsible for maintenance of the building. “I believe it is our duty to ensure truth in history for what it is, not what some may have wished it to be.”

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The plaque in question commemorates soldiers on both sides of the war and was installed in 1964. It reads in part “in commemorating the centennial of that great struggle between the citizens of the temporarily divided nation in the 1860s the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong, or to make decisions on other controversial issues.” It describes all soldiers in the war as trying "to do their duty as they saw it.”

Jones said this language depicts the Union and Confederacy as morally equivalent.

“‘Doing their duty as they saw it’ does not give a pass to the cause these soldiers fought for,” she wrote.

Maryland was considered a border state during the war and retained the institution of slavery despite remaining in the Union, and many top state officials during the war were Confederate sympathizers.

In 2017, shortly after the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) removed a statue from state house grounds of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.

In the decision, which ordered the return of Scott, a slave who had escaped into free territory, Taney wrote black people “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."