Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments Were Controversial in 1880, Too

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Confederate Women of Maryland monument, one of several Confederate symbols in Baltimore.
Confederate Women of Maryland monument, one of several Confederate symbols in Baltimore.

Throwback Thursday highlights past stories that are relevant again.

Originally published July 22, 2015 – Baltimore finds itself wrestling over whether to keep its Confederate monuments which are widely seen as tributes to a racist legacy. You may be interested to know that Baltimoreans hemmed and hawed over them when they were first proposed, though for different reasons.

Historic Sprawl, a blog focusing on the history of the Baltimore-Washington area, dug up some fascinating documents in which a couple of public figures expressed their misgivings over the monuments — which had nothing to do with black lives mattering.

This is from an open letter from Confederate veteran Charles T. Crane to Baltimore Mayor Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, published in the Baltimore Sun on March 27, 1880.

I, for one, am prepared to accept [that the Confederate cause is dead], and without the least abandonment of principle, without sacrifice of honor, with a heart full of love and reverence for my fallen comrades, I am unwilling to see erected in the public streets of this city a monument to a dead idea, but which will be a standing menace, and a source of bitterness not only to a great number of the citizens of Baltimore and Maryland, but to a great number of the people of the United States. The war is over. For God’s sake let us of the South do nothing to revive its enmities and hates, but rather cultivate a spirit of reconciliation and peace. We are one people, let us be one in spirit as well as in name.

The mayor basically agreed with this logic. “The public highways and squares of the city are the common property of all,” he wrote to explain his rejection of a proposed monument, “and we who are temporarily entrusted with their control, whatever our personal opinions may be, are not, in my judgment, justified in dedicating any portion of them to a purpose which would be in direct opposition to the sensibilities and wishes of large numbers of citizens.”

Obviously, his word wasn’t enough to prevent Confederate groups from erecting their memorials. And so up they went, in 1887, 1903, 1917, and 1948. Despite the lack of references to black slavery in this letter, Historic Sprawl argues that the efforts to memorialize the Confederacy in Baltimore “closely paralleled efforts to segregate, disenfranchise, and discriminate against African-Americans in Baltimore and Maryland” during the same period.

Read the post at Historic Sprawl.

The monuments were removed in the middle of the night on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at the behest of Mayor Catherine Pugh.


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