By Ginger Macomber
The legislature has another chance to repeal Maryland’s Confederate state song “Maryland, My Maryland” this session. It must take action to finally stop honoring the Lost Cause and send a strong message that all are welcome in Maryland.
Maryland is the only State in the country with a Confederate symbol for its State song, “Maryland, My Maryland” — a symbol that is no different than flying the Confederate flag over the State House.
The lyrics to “Maryland, My Maryland” glorify Maryland’s shameful slave-holding history – including honoring former Gov. Enoch Lewis who urged Maryland to secede from the Union and gave moral and material support to the Confederacy.
“Maryland, My Maryland” was written to protest Union troops in Baltimore and Southern Confederate soldiers used it as a Civil War battle hymn. Maryland did not adopt “Maryland, My Maryland” as our State song until 1939 – a time when Maryland was sadly among our nation’s segregated “Jim Crow” states. Some of my friends grew up in segregated Maryland and remember vividly the pain of being treated as second-class citizens.
Our General Assembly has had numerous opportunities to disavow the message of “Maryland, My Maryland” and has repeatedly failed to act. Why? For the past two years I have testified before the House Health and Government Operations Committee in favor of the most recent bills for repeal, but this committee’s leadership refused to go on record in support of the song’s repeal or bring the bills to a vote.
This past year has seen a long-overdue reckoning throughout our country about our Confederate past and the power of its symbols to still foster hate. The recent insurrection and occupation of Congress, including the erection of a scaffold with a noose and numerous Confederate flags waving in the halls of the Capitol, have shown a harsh light on why symbols matter and why the legislature must make the repeal of “Maryland, My Maryland” a priority this Session.
Momentum has been building. The Montgomery County Council passed a resolution that discourages the use of “Maryland, My Maryland” at official Montgomery County events including public school events and graduations. The Baltimore Sun wrote a scathing editorial calling for an immediate moratorium on performing Maryland’s “toxic” state song. The University of Maryland marching band refuses to play “Maryland, My Maryland” before university athletic events. The Maryland Jockey Club announced this year that “Maryland, My Maryland” will no longer be performed before the Preakness. Even Congressman Jamie Raskin has written a new, inclusive state song as an example of a song we can all sing proudly.
We have new leadership in our General Assembly. Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones have stated their support for the repeal of “Maryland, My Maryland.” Several repeal bills have been filed, including one filed at the request of the State Archives – the keeper of official Maryland documents like our state song. [Other repeal bills include SB8, SB87 and HB389]
Let’s make 2021 the year that Maryland stops honoring the Lost Cause by repealing our Confederate state song and sending a clear message about who belongs and whose lives matter in today’s Maryland.
Ginger Macomber has been a persistent advocate for this song’s repeal, including successfully obtaining a resolution from the Montgomery County Council and Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. She organized letter-writing campaigns to the Maryland Jockey Club to stop performing “Maryland, My Maryland” before the Preakness, and she has reached out repeatedly to all the legislative leadership.