Baltimore park space where Confederate statue once stood is rededicated to Harriet Tubman

Kevin Rector
Kevin RectorContact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

More than 200 local residents and elected leaders gathered in a tree-lined corner of a Baltimore park Saturday to rededicate the space, which had long venerated two Confederate generals, to the famed abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.

“We stand on the shoulders of this great woman,” said Ernestine Jones-Williams, 71, a Baltimore County resident and a Tubman family descendant who spoke on behalf of the family. “We are overwhelmed. Overwhelmed. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The ceremony in Wyman Park Dell, on the 105th anniversary of Tubman’s death, took place feet from the now-empty pedestal of a large, bronze, double-equestrian statue of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and officially renamed the space Harriet Tubman Grove.

The statue had stood in the park since 1948, but was removed in August amid a national debate and protests over Confederate symbolism and monuments, and how they are viewed by those who see them as offensive reminders of the country’s racial history and those who proudly consider them a part of their Southern heritage.

The public reckoning over the placement and meaning of such statues in public spaces, and the often negative roles the people honored by these monuments played in history, began in large part in 2015, after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot nine African-Americans to death in a church in Charleston, S.C. It grew in August after a violent white supremacist rally to protest the planned removal of a statue of Lee in Charlottesville, Va., led to the death of a counter-protester.

Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration removed four Baltimore monuments with ties to the Confederacy — the Lee-Jackson monument, a monument to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney at Mount Vernon Place, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue and the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway — days after the Charlottesville rally in an unannounced, overnight operation, citing “safety and security” concerns.

Baltimore City Council approves renaming former Confederate statue site for Harriet Tubman

At the event Saturday, city officials and local residents cited the events in Charleston and Charlottesville, but largely focused on more local efforts to have Baltimore’s statues removed, including a grass-roots petition drive.

They said the removal of the statues has imbued the spaces where they once stood, such as the Harriet Tubman Grove, with their own symbolic power.

“Since the removal of the Lee-Jackson statue, this park has become a gathering place for city residents of all backgrounds to meet, talk and enjoy the location as a space that symbolizes hope and positive change,” said Ciara Harris, chief of staff to Baltimore Recreation and Parks Director Reginald Moore. “Harriet Tubman Grove will provide the city an opportunity to correct historic injustice to a Maryland native. Our city is properly recognizing an African-American hero.”

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke called Tubman, who was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore but went on to lead many other enslaved people to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a “heroine and beacon for all ages.”

Baltimore group helps reimagine city's Confederate monuments, address inequity in arts scene

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, a longtime, local civil rights leader who has been working to get Tubman recognized in more official ways across the city for years, thanked the community for its work in renaming the grove.

“You did what needed to be done to say, ‘Yes, we need to move on,’ ” he said.

Jackson Gilman-Forlini, 28, of the city’s Abell neighborhood, who is studying how society re-contextualizes monuments and memorials over time as part of a master’s degree program in historic preservation at Goucher College, said the rededication was a great thing for the city. He served on the task force formed by Pugh last year to study the removal of the city’s Confederate monuments.

“Monuments are seen as permanent, sort of monolithic structures, but inherently their meanings change over time, and really the removal of these monuments was not so much about monuments in general, but about the kind of values that we as a society want to promote,” said Gilman-Forlini, who also works for the city as a historic preservationist. “This is now the next logical step in the process of asserting those values, those positive values of inclusion, of tolerance, of speaking out against prejudice.

“These kind of gatherings in many ways are much more powerful than new monuments may necessarily be, because these are about community action and about the experience of the individual working in a community to assert positive values,” he said. “In that way I think this is really the best thing that we could be doing right now as a means of healing past injustices.”

Coalition Asks for Removal of Confederate Monument in Baltimore’s Wyman Park

From the Afro

Coalition Asks for Removal of Confederate Monument in Baltimore’s Wyman Park

 

Important Highlighted Dates for 2019 in Black America…….and America!!!

Important Highlighted Dates for 2019 in Black America…….and America!!! 
Next year, on the way to commemorating August 2019 as the 400th anniversary of the arrival of fettered Africans in what would become the United States of America, we might also acknowledge the following anniversaries:
 
January 15, 2019, 90th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
February 12, 2019, 110th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
 
May 17, 2019, 65th anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, that outlawed racial segregation in public schools.
 
July 2, 2019, 55th anniversary of the signing into law of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
 
Late August 2019, 400th anniversary of the arrival in Jamestown, Virginia of “20 and odd negroes…” aboard an English warship, the White Lion.  The Africans—along with other valuable cargo—had been seized in a raid by the White Lion and another English warship, the Treasurer, upon a Portuguese slave ship on its way to Mexico.
 
In 1619 slavery had not been clearly defined; hence, some of the Africans became indentured servants and ultimately gained their freedom.
 
In 2019, on one or more of the important anniversaries, some of us should raise a glass in toast or say a prayer for the many who endured protracted assaults on their mental, emotional and physical selves (“head, heart and hide”) to make our country a more principled nation.
 
To borrow from Lincoln’s 1864 letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, we might ask: “Who, but an ingrate, could feel no appreciation for those who ‘… laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom’?”