Commission begins considering the fate of the city's Confederate monuments

Thursday's meeting of the Special Commission to Review Baltimore's Public Confederate Monuments saw the newly christened special mayoral board set its sights on four of the most controversial Antebellum and Confederate monuments throughout the city.

Ryan Patterson of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts laid out for the commission what he predicted as the four potential outcomes for each of the monuments: keeping the memorials unchanged, juxtaposing the memorials with supplementary materials in order to better contextualize the controversial subject matter, relocating the memorials but maintaining them within the city's collections, or both removing and de-accessioning the memorials.

Although the options for alteration or removal may seem attractive to those who see the memorials as not just anachronistic but outright offensive, there are hurdles to such actions. Commissioner Larry Gibson, a professor of law at the University of Maryland and member of the Maryland Historical Trust board, noted that three of the four monuments in question are protected by historic preservation easements.

These easements, which cover the Confederate Women's Monument, the Lee-Jackson Monument, and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, make any alterations subject to the review of the Maryland Historical Trust, which in turn abides by stringent historical preservation guidelines established by the Department of the Interior. The department's website lists moving or even altering protected structures and features as "not recommended."

Despite these potential stumbling blocks, Adrian Bishop of the Stony Run Friends Meeting, a Quaker group, echoed the sentiments of many community members present when he voiced support for such a wide range of options. While he admitted he has "no great objection to old statues, as long as we can give some modern explanation to what is going on," he viewed the set of statues in their current forms, particularly the Lee-Jackson Memorial, as "a real insult and a slap in the face" to black citizens of Baltimore.

The commission, composed of eight members ranging from government officials to professors, will meet three more times before presenting its findings to the mayor. Its next meeting is Oct. 29. 

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