A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks the removal of a monument to Confederate solders that has been situated for more than a century on the lawn of the Talbot County courthouse in Easton, Maryland.
Filed in Baltimore federal court, the lawsuit targets the so-called “Talbot Boys” memorial, a 13-foot-tall monument consisting of a copper statue of young Confederate troops on top of a granite pedestal.
The lawsuit was brought against Talbot County on behalf of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In a 54-page complaint, the lawyers for the plaintiffs called the statue “a monument to treason, cowardice and the glorification of a racist past” and claimed it violates state and federal laws.
“Individuals who view the Confederacy and the legacy of slavery and white supremacy with fondness are free to do so and express their views, but units of government may not participate in supporting those views,” the lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in their lawsuit. “The lawn of a public courthouse may not, consistent with our laws, be used to pay tribute to a racist history and its defenders.”
The lawsuit requests the Talbot Boys monument be “immediately and permanently” removed from the courthouse lawn, as well as an order barring its display on any property owned or managed by the county.
An assistant county manager for Talbot County referred a request for comment from The Washington Times to the five elected officials currently serving on its governing body, the Talbot County Council.
Talbot County had not been served with the lawsuit as of later Wednesday afternoon, two of its members told The Times, each separately adding they could not comment on pending litigation anyway.
Easton, where the statue rests on the courthouse lawn, is the county seat and is located on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay approximately 90 miles from both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Maryland, a state that allowed slavery at the start of the Civil War in 1861, did not secede from the U.S. during the conflict unlike neighboring Virginia and other states to their south and west.
Thousands of Marylanders fought in the war on behalf of the Confederacy during its ultimately failed effort to sustain the forced enslavement of Black people, however.
Indeed, the pedestal of the Talbot Boys monument contains engravings listing the names of scores of Confederate soldiers with some connection to the county, the lawyers for the plaintiffs noted.
The monument was dedicated in 1916, five decades after the Civil War ended, on sits prominently outside the Talbot County courthouse on the former site of a slave auction block, the lawyers noted.
“That any government in the United States would continue to maintain the symbolism of white supremacy and promote a legacy of racial subjugation should shock the conscience,” reads part of the lawsuit. “That Talbot County does so on a courthouse lawn – a place of prominence the holds itself out as the seat of justice in the county; a place that count citizens pay for and maintain with tax dollars, including the tax dollars of its Black citizen who are overtly denigrated and humiliated by the state – only compounds the unconscionability of the statue and illuminates its illegality.”
Confederate monuments have been taken down in droves from public display in recent years, especially following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a White police officer in May 2020.
The Talbot County Council considered a resolution in August 2020 that would have cleared the way for removing the Talbot Boys monument, but its members rejected that measure by a vote of 3-2.
More than a century since its unveiling, “the monument is last Confederate monument that remains on public property in Maryland outside of cemeteries and battlefields,” according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, or OPD, an independent state agency, and the local NAACP chapter, which boasts of around 150 members in Talbot County.
OPD lawyer Kisha Petticolas and NAACP Talbot County Branch President Richard M. Potter, both of whom are Black, are each listed individually as plaintiffs in the lawsuit as well.