Pullen calls for Talbot Boys removal
EASTON — First District Democratic congressional candidate Mike Pullen assembled with a group of protesters on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn Thursday evening, Aug. 17, to call for the immediate removal of the Confederate Talbot Boys statue.
Talbot County Council President Jennifer Williams said the council should not rush to a conclusion over an issue this serious.
“Those monuments have now become and perhaps always been symbols of white supremacy and rallying points for white supremacists,” Pullen said, “and they have no place on public grounds and hallowed grounds that are reserved for the courts.”
The Talbot Boys monument lists 84 Civil War veterans from Talbot County who fought for the Confederacy. The statue at the top is of a Confederate color-bearer draped in a Confederate flag.
It is the only Civil War monument on the Talbot County Circuit Courthouse grounds. The monument was erected in 1914, and the statue of the color-bearer holding the Confederate flag was added in 1916.
Symbols of the Confederacy became controversial after a man who described himself as a white supremacist entered an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., and killed nine people during a Bible study session in June 2015. After ward, communities across Maryland, and the country, reassessed and removed Civil War Confederate symbols from public grounds.
Shortly after the church shooting, the Talbot NAACP proposed the Talbot County Council vote to remove the Confederate monument from the courthouse lawn, move it elsewhere and erect a new statue depicting both Union and Confederate soldiers from Talbot County.
The council twice voted to keep it on the courthouse lawn, once in a fall 2015 closed session and later in a June 2016 public session, after it was found the council violated the state’s Open Meetings Act during the first vote. While council members did not want the statue removed, they said they were open to a proposal for a statue honoring the county’s Union veterans on the courthouse grounds.
Now, after a recent white nationalist rally turned violent and then deadly for one protester in Charlottesville, Va., Confederate statues again have been thrust into current conversations.
The statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney — the author of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans — that presides over the front lawn of the Maryland State House was removed after House Speaker Michael Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, and Gov. Larry Hogan called for its removal. In the early morning hours of Aug. 16, Baltimore city officials had four Confederate statues removed unannounced after about a year of indecision on the issue.
Now, the Talbot NAACP and Pullen, former longtime attorney for the Talbot County Council, are calling for the Talbot Boys statue’s immediate removal, saying it should not be displayed on public grounds.
“The statues dedicated to the Confederacy represent those who fought under a different flag and fought to divide America and enslave Americans,” Pullen said.
The last time the Talbot Boys statue became controversial, a petition movement called “Save the Talbot Boys” was started that wanted the statue to remain on the courthouse lawn, citing its historical significance. A petition is being circulated by the Talbot NAACP that calls for its removal.
Talbot County Council members have been attending the Maryland Association of Counties conference in Ocean City since other Confederate statues in Maryland were removed from public grounds.
Williams said the council does not want to have a “knee-jerk reaction based on something that happened in another state.”
“This is much too serious an issue just to arbitrarily overnight do something,” Williams said. “That’s not, to me, how anything of this nature should be handled. It should be handled with a great deal of thought and consideration.”
The Talbot NAACP wants the Talbot Boys statue removed and a new statue to be erected that honors both sides of the Civil War.
Williams said she sees the issue going one of two ways: Continue to encourage a proposal for a Union statue, or move the Talbot Boys statue and have no Civil War statue on the courthouse lawn.
The offer for a group to propose a new statue, built with private funds in the same way Talbot Boys was more than 100 years ago, has been standing since the council’s final vote on the issue last year. The council has not heard a proposal from anyone, Williams said.
“We’re disappointed that no one has taken that and moved forward with it, that why after all the conversation we had and all the thought that went into it, why has no one done this?” Williams said.
Williams said the council is willing to work with any group that wants to build a Union statue and ease any hurdles it might come across, but “it’s not the county council’s responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money in that way.”
One county resident has an offer, one that also has stood since last year.
Local Pete Howell of fers to match dollar-for-dollar the first $1,000 anyone raises to design, fund and build a Union memorial on the courthouse lawn. He also has not heard a proposal from anyone.
“For me, an ideal situation would be one of two things: Either erect a Union memorial monument, very much like the one that stands there now with the names of Talbot County soldiers who served the Union, and probably some sort of statue above as a Union soldier, maybe draped in the stars and stripes,” Howell said.
“And the other possible outcome would be to have a Union memorial that is just an obelisk with the names of the Union soldiers on it and remove the soldier statue from the Confederate memorial,” Howell said. “That’s seems to be the element of the memorial that has incited so much controversy.”
Howell said he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign a petition calling for the removal of the Talbot Boys statue, visit pullenfor.us.
First District Congressional candidate Mike Pullen, standing center, on Thursday, Aug. 17, calls for the immediate removal of the Confederate Talbot Boys statue, pictured in the background. Also pictured are Talbot NAACP President Richard Potter, far left, and Ryan Ewing, far right, Pullen’s campaign manager.