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By Erin Cox Erin Cox Local reporter covering Maryland state politics Email Bio Follow May 23 at 6:43 PM Newly elected House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones on Thursday sought to remove the last item commemorating the Confederacy from the Maryland State House &m

Newly elected House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones on Thursday sought to remove the last item commemorating the Confederacy from the Maryland State House — a plaque that pays tribute to soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

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In her first official act outside a ceremonial bill signing, Jones — the first woman and first African American to preside over a Maryland chamber — made the request in a letter to the State House Trust, which oversees the preservation and maintenance of the 240-year-old building.

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“History clearly tells us there was a right and a wrong side of the Civil War,” wrote Jones (D-Baltimore County). “I believe it is our duty to ensure truth in history for what it is, not what some may have wished it to be.”

[ The Confederacy was built on slavery. How can so many Southern whites still believe otherwise? ]

The plaque was installed more than half-century ago by the 1964 Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission, during the height of the civil rights movement. It is displayed in the grand marble hall on the first floor of the building and reads, in part:

“In commemorating the centennial of that great struggle between the citizens of the temporarily divided nation in the 1860s the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission did not attempt to decide who was right and who was wrong, or to make decisions on other controversial issues … By doing so it seeks to pay tribute to those who fought and died. As well as to the citizens who, during the Civil War, tried to do their duty as they saw it.”

Jones wrote that the plaque does not seek to document history, but “instead sympathizes with Confederate motivations and memorializes Confederate soldiers. … ‘Doing their duty as they saw it’ does not give a pass to the cause these soldiers fought for.”

[ Jones becomes first African American, first woman to serve as House speaker ]

In an interview, Jones said she had walked past the plaque many times in her decades as a delegate, but was unaware of its message until she became speaker and attended her first meeting of the State House Trust.

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“I said, ‘you’re kidding,’ ” she recalled. “This has no place here, no place. … It’s an affront to people of color.”

Maryland was a slaveholding border state that remained in the Union during the Civil War, though many people in power were Confederate sympathizers.

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A far more prominent tribute to the Confederacy was removed from the State House grounds in 2017, shortly after the deadly Unite the Right in Charlottesville.

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In an overnight operation initiated by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), workers hauled away a statue of former Chief Justice of the United States Roger B. Taney, a segregationist from Frederick County who wrote the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that asserted blacks could never be citizens and allowed the expansion of slavery in U.S. territories.

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Historians widely credit Taney’s decision as a key issue that propelled the country to war

Read more:

From a descendant of Roger Taney to a descendant of Dred Scott: I’m sorry

‘Like everyone’s favorite aunt’: Meet Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones

Removing a slavery defender’s statue: Roger B. Taney wrote one of Supreme Court’s worst rulings

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