Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele said the lyrics to Maryland’s state song should be changed.
“I’d love to keep the theme. I love the theme music. But the lyrics should be more reflective-not just of these times but more reflective of who we are how we see ourselves as Marylanders. And what does it mean to be a Marylander? And what does it mean to be a part of the United States,” Steele told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Friday.
Steele, who served as Republican National Committee chair from 2009-11, said, “I like the ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’ and everything after that you can do away with.”
Maryland, My Maryland, is a pro-Confederate song based on an 1861 poem by James Ryder Randall. It has been the state song since 1939 and is sung to the melody of the Christmas song “O Tannenbaum.
Both House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson have said they want to get rid of the song. The issue could come to the forefront when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) said he is “100 percent in favor” of scrapping the song.
McCray pushed back against the argument that changing the song is tantamount to erasing history.
“I’m a very very ardent student of history. But there are enough books. There is enough out there for us to understand what happened in history without in 2020 still being respectful and making sure that we’re embracing all people when we’re talking about our state buildings. When we’re talking about our courthouses. When we’re talking about things that we lift up as a state and as a country in making sure that we’re being unified instead of divisive.”
Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery) echoed similar sentiments, saying that replacing the song does not mean erasing it from history.
“The song will always be part of the state’s history. It doesn’t mean that it is something that we should celebrate in modern times. But it will always be part of our history and it’s something that children will learn about…But much like the statue of [Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger] Taney and…statues that are coming down all across the nation — the proper place for those is in a museum…it’s certainly time to change the song.”
Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) said the song is inappropriate because it celebrates the Confederacy and is illustrative of a time when many Marylanders were held in bondage.
“When you think about a song that is supposed to represent an entire state that is essentially like a love letter to the Confederacy-it’s really a call to Maryland beckoning them to that.
“That is not what we stand for. And it’s also not even highlighting what makes our state wonderful. So, I think, that we really need to shed these vestiges of a time where one-third of Marylanders were not even considered worthy of being residents or citizens.”
But not everyone said the song should go.
“No sir. No sir. I think it’s a time that we can learn from it and not take away from it. I think we need to really look it and just keep it as it is,” Del. Rick Metzgar (R-Baltimore County) said.
However, Metzgar said he is not opposed to changing some of the lyrics.
“If they want to change a few words around or something that would be alright.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s press secretary, Shareese Churchill, told MarylandReporter.com in an email that the governor “will carefully review the legislation,” should it arrive at his desk.
The Senate has twice passed legislation to replace the song. The legislation died in the House.
The nation has seen an increase in racial turmoil since the police killing of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis. Activists are demanding the removal of vestiges of American history that they deem representative of white supremacy. That includes the statues of Christopher Columbus and Andrew Jackson.
In Baltimore, a battle is brewing over whether a statue of Columbus should be replaced. Lawmakers and activists opposed to the removal held a press conference in the city on Friday morning.