The Maryland State House has frequently been the site of controversy over public artwork. Until 2017, a statue of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dredd Scott Decision sat outside the building. Last year, disagreements emerged over the decision to amend but keep a plaque honoring both Union and Confederate soldiers. Now, the State House has added two new works of art that aim to counter some of these controversial pieces.
Yesterday, lawmakers unveiled two statues of abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass outside the Old House Chamber. The installation was the culmination of four years of effort to get the statues erected. The statues were proposed in 2016 by the then-house speaker and then-senate president. They argued that the presence of the abolitionists in the State House was particularly important because of the number of school tours that go through the building each year.
State House staff also hope the statues will help people learn about the abolitionists’ connection to Maryland. Christ Haley a director who studies the legacy of slavery for the Maryland State Archives, said that while many people know of Tubman and Douglass, few know that they are connected to Maryland. “We want to feel that the Maryland State House is about the most important people in the history of the state, and two of the most important people in the history of the state, as well as nationwide, are Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” he said.