Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot wants the “Talbot Boys” statue honoring Confederate soldiers removed from the Talbot courthouse grounds.
A peaceful Saturday protest in downtown Easton for racial justice and against police brutality against people of color included calls for the statue’s removal. Following the protest, demonstrators left their signs at the base of the monument.
Franchot spoke Tuesday morning with The Spy to discuss his position on the statue’s removal.
“The Talbot Boys Monument needs to be removed because it was not put up as a memorial to Marylanders who fought for the Confederacy, it was put up in 1916 at the height of the Jim Crow laws and it’s very clearly a message to African-American folks — on taxpayer property, which is the courthouse — that if you want equal justice you shouldn’t come because we’re glamorizing these Confederate soldiers.
“It used to be kind of benignly accepted as oh, well, isn’t it educational, isn’t it historical in nature?” he said. “No, it isn’t. It’s a testimony to a period of time which was horrible for African-Americans which was the Jim Crow days when their participation, their voting was suppressed and where they didn’t have equal justice under the law like other Americans.
“This statue unfortunately is a neon message to them: Don’t come to this courthouse, this publicly funded, taxpayer-funded courthouse, for equal justice because you’re not going to get it.”
Citing the protests against police brutality and for racial justice following the death of George Floyd, Franchot said it was an appropriate time to again ask for the statue’s removal.
“These issues are always kind of radioactive, controversial, but if Virginia, with its history … can be in the process of removing the Confederate general statues along Monument Avenue down in Richmond, certainly Easton or Talbot County can reconsider removing this statue again from in front of the courthouse.
“Hopefully, there will be a different response than last time.”
The Talbot County Council last rejected calls for the removal of the Confederate statue in 2016 and 2017. Current council members Corey Pack, Chuck Callahan, and Laura Price were among the five council members who unanimously voted then against removing the statue.
“I am completely impressed with the demonstrations around the country. Most of them are absolutely peace-loving, Constitutional protests about police brutality,” he said. “Anyone who has seen that video, that 8-minute video of George Floyd being suffocated to death by the policeman with spectators all around saying ‘stop it, you’re killing him’ and he just went ahead and killed the individual right there on camera.
“Obviously, the demonstrations have been widespread, but what’s impressed me is that in rural, all-white areas of the country, traditionally Trump country, for example as far as the voting patterns, there are demonstrations asking for a stop to police brutality.
“I think it’s a reawakening of the country to the injustices that a lot of our citizens face. I hope that the county council … will act quickly and get it removed from public property.”
Asked what he could do as comptroller to ensure the statue’s removal, Franchot said speaking out on the issue was the key.
“I really think with most Americans, and most Marylanders, and most residents of the Eastern Shore, to just remind people ‘can we please do the right thing?’ Given the situation, could we please do the right thing and remove this?
“We know that it doesn’t have anything to do with history or with education or with memorializing brave, young Marylanders who may have erroneously fought for the South in the Confederate War. No, this is part of a domination … of African-Americans for decades and decades following the Civil War. And the message couldn’t be clearer: Don’t come to our courthouse thinking you’re going to be treated equally. You’re not going to be. That’s the message.
“So let’s remove that to the extent we can taking advantage of the change in the nationwide temperament and work together. If we just kind of nudge people in the right direction, you’ll see change because most people are wonderful, compassionate, and generous and empathetic folks.
“Finally, we now as a country are facing some of the racial injustices we know have always existed. And here’s a chance in a small way to remove a blemish, something that I would call a disgrace on one of my favorite parts of the state, Talbot County…. I love the Shore, but that statue’s gotta go.”
“When I went to school, I was taught that the Civil War was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights. No, it wasn’t about states’ rights, it was all about slavery…. (E)verybody now knows that and we simply have to face up to the injustice we had in our country and realize that after the Civil War Reconstruction was set up to continue to punish and dominate African-Americans, particularly in the South, not allowing them to vote.
“Then we have this history of vigilantism and lynchings. A few years after the Talbot Boys statue was put up in front of the courthouse, I think it was 1921, 300 African-Americans were massacred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a race riot and not a single person was ever arrested or prosecuted for that kind of behavior and it happened all over the country.”
In a Monday Facebook post, Franchot wrote:
“Let’s be clear: The Talbot Boys Monument has no value — historical, educational or otherwise. It was, and is, nothing more than propaganda designed to romanticize white supremacy and legitimize an act of treason against the United States.
“At a time when people of color are more vulnerable to harassment, abuse, economic discrimination, violence and murder simply because of the color of their skin, there is just no place in our society — and certainly not within our taxpayer-funded centers of justice — for a monument that glorifies and celebrates the very worst elements of our past.”