The diverse group of citizens of Talbot County and “The night they drove Old Dixie down”

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By Ralph E. Moore, Jr.

A vote was taken at the September 14 Talbot County Council meeting, in Easton, Md., to decide whether the statue of the Talbot Boys, the last Confederate monument on public land, should be taken down. There were five council members who voted that night: 

Frank Divilo
Peter Lesher, VP
Chuck F. Callahan, President
Corey W. Pack and
Laura E. Price

There was hope in the air before the 6 p.m. meeting that the Council would do the right thing. But no one knew what would happen until the vote took place. Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County NAACP and Ridgley Ochs, chair of the Move the Monument Committee as well as others, had been working on the effort to remove the statue of the Talbot Boys Confederate soldiers from the front of the Talbot County Courthouse for six years reportedly. 

The groups on both sides of the issue were well represented. Yellow shirts, worn by a racially diverse set of citizens, signified those who wanted the statue down. The blue and white sign carriers, not surprisingly all White citizens, lobbied for it to remain in place. The Rev. Nancy Dennis, pastor of St. Steven’s Church in Unionville, Talbot County, the Rev. Wendell Gary, pastor of Bethel AME Church of Easton in the same county and Jackie Coplin, a longtime community activist from Baltimore City, were among the 30 persons in the audience who made it into the meeting. Fifteen were allowed in from each side. Rev. Dennis said, “This is very important.  We must show up and demonstrate our opposition to keeping up this monument to white supremacy. I changed my schedule to be here tonight.  And Harriet Lowery from my congregation has been fighting for this change from the beginning.”

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Marvin Foster, 42, from Talbot County, who also sat in on the meeting said, “I want it (the Talbot Boys statue) down but it should not be destroyed and it should not be taken out of Talbot County. It should go in a museum, if anybody wants it in its proper context.” Foster does cyber security work for a living.

The Talbot County Council voted 3 to 2 tonight to move the Talbot Boys monument to Virginia. The pressures of the lawsuit brought by the NAACP that contends the statue’s placement on the courthouse lawn is racist and  violates the U.S. Constitution, calls from statewide elected officials for the statue to be removed, and protests all preceded the resolution adopted to move the monument. The vote was taken after each council member took the opportunity to explain the decision they were about to express. Frank Divilio’s was the vote that eventually swung in favor of moving the monument.

Under the resolution, introduced by Councilmember Divilio (R) on Monday, the monument will be moved to the Cross Keys Battlefield in Harrisonburg, Va. and placed under control of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. No public funds will be used to make the transition away from the courthouse and out of the state happen.

It is a clear victory for those who are fighting white supremacy. There is a song written by Robbie Robertson and popularized by the rock group, The Band in 1969 that came to mind last night. It could well serve as an anthem for the Talbot County NAACP and the Move the Monument Committee.  The Council vote resulted in a small way perhaps in it being: 

“The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing”

And so that is how the song goes and that was how the Talbot Boys statue goes away…

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