Early this morning at City Hall, the second meeting of the Commission to Review Baltimore's Public Confederate Monuments saw compelling expert testimony from Eli Pousson and James Loewen.
Pousson, the director of preservation and outreach at local nonprofit preservation organization Baltimore Heritage Inc., provided exhaustive evidence linking the Confederate memorials throughout the city to the long-running narrative of racist, revisionist history which is the hallmark of the “Lost Cause” and Neo-Confederate movements. While Pousson reiterated that his testimony wasn’t meant to be “representing any specific recommendations regarding the disposition of these monuments,” noted sociologist and author James Loewen took a more aggressive stance.
Loewen, who also testified before a similar committee regarding the Confederate Monument outside the Rockville Courthouse in Montgomery County, praised Pousson’s detailed historical contextualization of the monuments before going on to recommend removal of all monuments, even going so far as to propose removing the memorial to Civil War era dissident Severn Teackle Wallis while the commission is at it. For Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Lies Across America," the monuments represent the concrete manifestations of an insidious process of obscuring and revising history in the favor of racist political movements. He asserted that the statues should be removed “because they state something about the influence of the Confederacy, or Neo-Confederates . . . and their still being on the landscape implies that we’re still like that." This reasoning is hard to fault given the shrinelike status the memorials have achieved with contemporary Neo-Confederate groups, some of which have taken to holding rallies at the Jackson-Lee Memorial every Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a situation Loewen called “just kind of a stick in the eye if you think about [it]."
Because of the protected status granted to three of the four memorials by Historic Easements, it’s still unclear how quickly alteration or removal of the monuments could be implemented, but the commissioners stated that the Maryland Historical Trust Easement Committee is being kept abreast of the commission’s progress. Regarding the prospects of removal, Loewen urged the commission to reach a conclusion as soon as possible, warning, “there’s going to be at least six months then, and probably considerably more discussion of to where and with what context."