James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed

Historians in the News
tags: Confederate Memorials

In 1941, this statue was built to honor Confederate soldier Sidney Lanier. Although it represents another symbol of neo-Confederate sympathies, it wasn't even discussed by the committee tasked with deciding the fate of these monuments. We spoke with historian James Loewen about this oversight.

We first encountered Loewen during the hearings of a commission appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as it debated what to do with four Confederate statues concentrated in the city's majority white neighborhoods last Fall. The commission decided to remove two: a monument to Roger B. Taney, the architect of the Dred Scott decision, in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood, and a statue depicting the battlefield meeting between Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee in Wyman Park. But others remain, and some are simply overlooked.

Which is why we sat down with Loewen, to get more details on the historic context of the memorials that dot a majority black city, and the neo-Confederate movement in the early 20th century that used Confederate symbols to promote both legal segregation and codified racism against the state's African-American population.

JAMES LOEWEN: Everyone has ancestors, and Maryland did have a bunch of Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War who even joined the Confederate army, and they had to go to Virginia to do so. People who were descendants from those folks, they don't want to think badly of their own ancestors. None of us do. So the idea that their ancestors, in fact, were seceding on behalf of slavery, which is true, is hard for them to agree with, hard to--and so they do all kinds of things to convert it to anything but slavery. We might call it ABS. The Confederacy was about states' rights. No, the Confederacy was about tariffs and taxes. No. the Confederacy, in fact, was, literally, treason on behalf of slavery. We need to face that.

Between 1890 and about 1940--this was a very racist period in American history. It's called the nadir of race relations. During that period, most white folks didn't care about race relations anyway, even Northern white folks. Quasi-slavery had been reimposed in the South. Black folks were being removed from the voting rolls, they were being removed from being jurors. Being put back into second-class citizenship. It's a terrible time to be black. Well, even white folks who didn't have any Southern connections, like most Maryland people, didn't put up a fuss. ...

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