The decision comes as calls are being made across the country to do away with monuments to and statues of historical figures who represent a legacy of slavery and racism and as professional athletes protest police brutality and racial injustice.
Joseph said he did not know how long “Maryland, My Maryland” — which urges Maryland to secede and join the Confederacy against the “Northern scum” — has been played at the Preakness.
The decision not to play it was made earlier this summer, he said, when the Maryland Jockey Club issued a statement agreeing with Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones’s call to get rid of the song.
Jones (D-Baltimore County), the first African American and the first woman to be Maryland House speaker, said in a statement that she was pleased with the decision. “The divisive lyrics are not reflective of our state, especially when we are showcasing Maryland racing on an international stage,” she said.
She had called for the repeal of “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and described the lyrics as offensive and inappropriate.
The poem on which the song is based was written by Baltimore native and Confederate sympathizer James Ryder Randall in 1861. It refers to Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant and opens with “the despot’s heel is on thy shore,” a reference to Lincoln. The song is set to the tune of “Lauriger Horatius.”
Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), who co-wrote an alternative to the official state song last month, said he was happy to learn that the momentum is building for doing away with the ballad, which lawmakers had tried unsuccessfully to repeal for the past four decades.
In 2016, the Maryland Senate passed legislation to replace the song, but that measure did not receive a vote in the House. Two years later, the Senate passed a compromise bill to redesignate the song as the “historical state song.” Again, there was no House vote.
Jones became speaker last year.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) has said she plans to reintroduce legislation to eliminate the song next year.
“We’re obviously getting to the point when our major institutions agree that it’s time for a new song,” said Raskin, a former state lawmaker. “It’s a big deal for the Preakness to retire the song even before any official legislative action.”
Although Maryland was a slaveholding border state with many Confederate sympathizers, Raskin said the current song “does not reflect the spirit and character of Maryland.”
“It was written by a Maryland expatriate who was trying to get Maryland to join the Confederacy,” he said. “It was sung by Confederate troops marching into battle. It has nothing to do with who we are as a state today, and I don’t think it ever did.”
After the deadly Unite the Right gathering and counterprotest in Charlottesville in 2017, the University of Maryland’s marching band stopped playing the song because of its ties to the Confederacy.
The band previously played the song during its football pregame show.