Colin Byrd, a University of Maryland student, wants the legislators of the state to do one important thing: erect a statue of one of Maryland’s native daughters, Harriet Tubman, on the Maryland State House grounds in Annapolis.
Byrd is banking on the momentum surrounding Tubman after she was elected to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill by the Treasury Department to help propel his campaign forward.
He’s been successful in sparking mass change before. In 2015, he organized a student-led push to rename the University of Maryland’s stadium which was named after H.C. “Curley” Byrd, a segregationist and former university president. In December, the university board passed a resolution and renamed the grounds “Maryland Stadium.”
But there’s one caveat. The site is a hotbed of controversy due to an existing statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice who authored the proslavery Dred Scott decision. In 1990, after an embittered fight between legislators and community activists, a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court’s first Black justice, was placed alongside Taney as part of a compromise.
And the ask for a Harriet Tubman statue has been brought forth before but failed in 2012 and 2013. Supporters of those campaigns also wanted a statue of Frederick Douglas on the capitol grounds as well.
Byrd argues the addition of Tubman’s statue alongside Taney’s should quiet naysayers who believe removing memorials built to slave supporters erases history.
“Even those people would agree a lot of history can be learned from Harriet Tubman’s life and times,” Byrd said to The Washington Post. “It’s about balance . . . there were two sides to this slavery debate, and Tubman was on the right side of it, while Taney was wrong.”
To date, state lawmakers haven’t moved forward to vote on Byrd’s proposal. But he does have the support of one A-lister personally invested in Tubman’s historical reach.
Actress Viola Davis, who is slated to play Tubman in an upcoming HBO production released a statement backing Byrd and Tubman statue supporters, saying Tubman is “an integral part of American history, and it’s time for the masses to truly understand and acknowledge the scope of who she was and what she has accomplished — that, quite bluntly, no man ever has.”
According to The Washington Post, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett sent Gov. Larry Hogan a letter this month in support of a Tubman statue. Several elected officials in Dorchester County, where Tubman was born, have also urged legislative leaders to support the effort.
We applaud Byrd’s effort! As Davis stated, Tubman is an iconic abolitionist and feminist, who deserves a place at the table, especially in her home state.
What do you think, NewsOne family? Will we ever see a statue of Tubman placed at Maryland State House grounds? Sound off below in the comments to let us know what you think.
SOURCES: The Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty