Maryland’s office of the public defender, Talbot County’s branch of the NAACP and the ACLU of Maryland are among the groups that have signed on to the lawsuit against Talbot County. It alleges the statue is unconstitutional and illegal under federal and state law.
“The final vestige of the traitorous Confederacy has got to go,” Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, said at a news conference announcing the suit. “At long last, Maryland is finally moving away from symbols like this.”
Talbot County Council President Chuck F. Callahan (R) did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
Shelley noted that the push to remove the statue, which she said stands upon ground where slave auctions were held, comes as Maryland has made strides on racial justice.
After multiple failed attempts, state lawmakers this year decided to get rid of the official state song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” which glorifies the Confederacy and calls Abraham Lincoln a “tyrant.”
The state also passed historic police accountability measures this year, including becoming the first state to repeal its powerful Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), the first Black person to hold that position, played a key role in passing the policing bills and also led efforts last year to remove a pro-Confederate plaque from a wall inside the Maryland State House.
After white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville in 2017 in favor of keeping Confederate monuments, leading to the death of Heather Heyer, four Confederate statues in Baltimore were hauled away. So was a statue on the Maryland State House grounds of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney — a slavery defender whose infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision said Black people could not be U.S. citizens.
The lawsuit to remove the “Talbot Boys” statue, filed in federal district court in Baltimore, says it should “shock the conscience” that any government in America would “would continue to maintain the symbolism of white supremacy and promote a legacy of racial subjugation.”
The statue was erected in 1916 in memory of dozens of people who fought for the Confederacy from Talbot, which today has 37,000 residents and is 83 percent White. Maryland was a slaveholding border state that remained in the Union during the war, though many of its citizens were Confederate sympathizers.
Last year, following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Talbot County Council member Corey W. Pack (R), the council’s only Black member, introduced a resolution to remove the statue.
It was voted down 3-2.
Kisha Petticolas, who has worked in the Easton office of the Maryland public defender for a decade and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the statue has a “violent, hateful legacy” that continues to have an impact today.
“How can we keep this Confederate monument erected without promoting the same legacy of white supremacy? It cannot be done,” she said in a statement. “How can any Black Marylanders expect justice at a courthouse that holds up a racist symbol on a pedestal for all to see?”