BY KEVIN RECTOR
BALTIMORE – More than 200 residents and elected leaders gathered in a tree-lined corner of a Baltimore park on March 10 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.