Students Speak: Should Baltimore Take Down Its Confederate Monuments?

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Lee & Jackson Monument
Jackson and Lee at Wyman Park, Baltimore.

This summer, we have asked our intern, Bryn Mawr School Senior Madi Johnson, to get some insight from area students about the hot issues of the day. We want to know what the leaders of tomorrow think! Want to add your voice to the debate?  Email Madi at [email protected] 

Earlier this summer, 21 year-old Dylann Roof opened fire on a Bible study group at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina leaving nine people dead. Several days later, images surfaced of Roof posing with the Confederate flag. Roof’s association with the flag, an emblem of Southern heritage to some and racism to others, triggered a debate about the appropriateness of such symbols across the nation, including in Baltimore.

A month after the tragedy, the South Carolina Senate voted to remove the Confederate flag, which had been flown at the South Carolina statehouse for 54 years. Locally, activists have called to remove Baltimore’s four monuments honoring Confederates: Robert E. Lee Park, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors statue in Station North, the Confederate Women’s statue at North Charles and University Parkway, and the Lee-Jackson statue on Art Museum Drive, across form the Baltimore Museum of Art. On Monday, City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young filed a bill that proposes to rename Robert E. Lee Park to Lake Roland Park, and the the City Council is currently considering the proposed ordinance.

Map of Confederate monuments around Baltimore.  From North to South: Robert E. Lee Park, Confederate Women's Monument, Lee and Jackson Monument, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Map of Confederate monuments around Baltimore.
From North to South: Robert E. Lee Park, Confederate Women’s Monument, Lee and Jackson Monument, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The issue has divided local residents and we asked local high school students from area public and private schools to weigh in on the issue.

BASIL APOSTOLO and AARON SLUTKIN, Gilman School
BASIL: “I think the Confederate flag should not be flown as a symbol of pride because much of what it represents is not something to be proud of. Just as many say that those who don’t understand history are destined to repeat it in the future, we must continue to learn about the Confederacy and its symbols. These discussions belong in classrooms, and the flag belongs in museums. It does not belong on top of a state house.”

AARON: “For nearly a century, Robert E. Lee Memorial Park’s lakes, paths and beauty have provided Baltimore’s families—regardless of color or status—an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. For me and my family, its trails have provided both recreation and sanctuary. To change the name, one that it has held for over seventy years, would be to damage not only the park’s history but also the significance that its 500 acres holds to the Baltimoreans who cherish the area. Renaming Robert E. Lee Memorial Park would be a mistake.”

BRIDGET DONNER, Carver Center for Arts and Technology
“I believe that in today’s society it is imperative that we move past ideals in history that are discriminatory in any way. The public display of the Confederate flag holds underlying racism that society should no longer condone. As for Confederate monuments, I believe they should commemorate history, not Confederate historical beliefs. They should not be destroyed; however, a museum seems more fitting than public display. I believe Robert E. Lee park should be renamed simply because what he fought for and [what] is being commemorated support[s] racist beliefs. A park named after him in Maryland is by no means necessary, and should be renamed to show progress in equal rights.”

AYANNA DORSEY, Garrison Forest School
“The Confederate flag to many is seen as a strong display of blatant racism and exclusion. Its display in public spaces does not coincide with what America claims to stand for. In our Constitution, it states that ‘all men are created equal’, but this flag dates back to a time whe[n] racism tore our country apart. Why would we want to display it in our modern world where we are constantly striving for equality? Some may say this flag is a part of their Southern heritage. This flag was also used relentlessly by the KKK. America needs to wake up. These Confederate soldiers were fighting against the North to keep slavery intact. Many question why we are honoring men who[se] main goal was to keep Black Americans down — keep us from prospering. By having these monuments and landmarks, America is honoring the work that these men have done — the work that included keeping Black Americans enslaved and subordinate under the White man.”

EMILY LEFF, Bryn Mawr School
“It does not make sense to me why a flag that represents this group of people who wanted [to] separate from being American would be used in a public space. The Confederate flag refutes the idea that public spaces are free for all to use and enjoy; it suggests that these principles of institutionalized racism are still ideals that the American government aims to keep in place. Hanging symbols of black oppression in spaces meant to be enjoyed by all hinders our progress towards inclusivity and equality. I definitely think that renaming landmarks [that honor Confederate soldiers] is the correct first step. I would love to see Robert E. Lee park renamed to honor someone who strove towards a better future for the nation based on advocating for equality and justice, or maybe even someone who helped build the park up to be the great place it is today.”

CASEY WONG, Roland Park Country School
“I think that the Confederate flag and statues should be taken down. I understand that [the flag] is a major historical symbol and represents people’s heritage, but it should only be displayed in museums. The Confederate flag and statues symbolize a time of hate and oppression. Today, it still generates negative opinions and actions. Any symbol of hate should be taken down, [and] Robert E. Lee Park should be renamed. Again, the park represents the Confederate movement and oppression. By keeping the name, we are honoring a general who fought to continue slavery in the United States. We should rename the park [to] something that is representative of the modern times, not an era of hate.”

 



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