The Talbot Boys Conversation: Talbot County Council Open Forum

The Talbot County Council continued to seek community input on the future of the “Talbot Boys” Confederate Veterans Memorial located on Talbot County’s Courthouse lawn. In their efforts to reach out for local views on what is to be done, or not done with the memorial, the council opened the debate for citizen comments last Wednesday with more than a hundred in attendance.

In all, twenty-six rose to make comments that were requested to be three minutes or less.

The Talbot Spy, in partnership with the Avalon Foundation, was able to record each speaker’s comments.

This video is approximately 75 minutes in length

The Talbot Boys Conversation: Bernard Demczuk on Unionville and Memorials

While the community conversation on the “Talbot Boys” has primarily focused on the future of the confederate soldier memorial on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn, the hamlet of Unionville, founded by eighteen African-Americans who had fought for the Union in 1865, has periodically been used by some as a counterpoint to those that suggest Talbot County has not equally honored the North’s veterans of the Civil War. The immediate effect was to pique the Spy’s curiosity about Unionville and its special history.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.49.00 AMIn this case, we were lucky to find Bernard Demczuk, who resides part-time at a second home on the Choptank River, who not only holds a PhD from Maryland in African-American history but has done extensive scholarship on Unionville. In fact, the George Washington University teacher and assistant VP for D.C. Relations for the school, had spent so much time on the Shore doing research that he purposely found a place on the Choptank, which many local African-Americans had named the Freedom River since it served as a critical pathway to freedom.

In his interview with the Spy, Demczuk talks about the importance of Unionville, the unique character of the men who founded that community, and his personal thoughts on what should be done about the Talbot Boys.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length.



The Talbot Boys Conversation: Mick Terrone

Last week, the Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity (TACL) hosted a community discussion on the future of the “Talbot Boys” Confederate memorial located on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn.  The Spy agreed not to videotape the meeting to encourage a frank and honest discussion about race and history on the Eastern Shore.

Instead, the we sought out participants after the event to continue the discussion for our readers. Oxford resident Dominic (Mickey) Terrone, a retired nonprofit executive and thirty-year student of the Civil War, agreed to share his thoughts on Maryland’s role in slavery, secession, and how best to move on from what he considers to be an “ugly” misrepresentation of history on the courthouse lawn.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. The Spy apologies in advance for the imperfect audio.

The Talbot Boys Conversation: A History Lesson with Russell Dashiell

While Russell Dashiell has made his living for more than 30 years as a successful attorney in Salisbury, he does have a competing lifelong passion that predates his law practice – a love for Eastern Shore history before, during, and after the Civil War.

What started as a childhood fascination with the war between the states, fueled by its centennial in 1965, Dashiell has become one of a handful of “go-to” history buffs who have studied the Shore’s erratic, almost schizophrenic march to war.

And Russell’s interest goes well beyond his ongoing research. For years, he has participated in civil war reenactments as a C.S.A. officer (in honor of his family ancestors) and has worked closely with the National Park Service on projects throughout Maryland and Virginia. And off the field of battle, Dashiell has served for years as a board trustee of the Maryland Historical Society.

In his Spy interview, Russell talks about the complexity of the Eastern Shore’s participation in the Civil War, the families and regional divisions as highlighted by local newspapers at the time, and how the institution of slavery had very little impact on the Delmarva’s young men to enlist.

This video is approximately ten minutes in length


The Talbot Boys Conversation: NAACP & County Council Begin the Dialogue

With civility and calm voices, the leadership of the NAACP of Talbot County met with four out of five Talbot County Council members late yesterday afternoon to discuss the future of the Talbot Boys statue. The memorial on the County’s courthouse lawn commemorates local Confederate soldiers who had lost their lives during the Civil War.

While mutual respect was observed throughout the meeting, there were a few tense moments as the conversation turned to the role played by the statue of Frederick Douglass, the famed native son of Talbot County and abolitionist, located less than a hundred feet from the Talbot Boys display.

Given the depth and complexity of this issue, the Spy has shared most of the meeting’s highlights of the lengthy discussion. The public conversation will be continued with a open community meeting on September 9th. The Spy will publish venue and time when it becomes available.

This video is approximately 35 minutes in length 

The Talbot Boys Conversation: Richard Potter and NAACP’s Easton Chapter

If one were looking for examples of a new generation taking on leadership roles in Talbot County, Richard Potter would be a good place to start. The current president of the NAACP’s Easton Chapter was born in 1982. And while his day job is one of being an educator with the Dorchester County School District, his new work, representing an organization formed in 1909 “to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination,” has taken on new meaning as County leaders begin to discuss the future of the Talbot Boys statue now sitting on the County Courthouse lawn.

In his interview with the Spy, Richard talks about the Talbot Boys, what the memorial means in the local African-American community as it stands now, and the generational change of perspective taking place that seriously questions how history is told in public spaces.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length.



The Talbot Boys Conversation: Statue Part of County History by Dirck Bartlett

I read the recent letter to the editor and the recent editorial of The Sunday Star) and wanted to share my thoughts regarding the Talbot Boys statue.

The readers may recall that the Frederick Douglass statue, as originally proposed, included a larger statue as well as a large paved area with sign boards and other educational text describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

At the time, I was president of the Talbot County Council and I recall that we had a consensus to build a statue honoring Frederick Douglass.

The basic problem was that the monument, as proposed at the time, was too large and the proposed impervious paving that would have potentially damaged the adjacent Wye Oak tree. In addition, the scale of the proposed statue and other educational placards was simply too large for the courthouse grounds.

The Frederick Douglass Honor Society was formed to lead the project and to assist the county council in honoring Frederick Douglass.

Our solution back then was to allow for a new statue that would approximate the size and scale of the existing statue located on the opposite lawn area of the new Frederick Douglass statue. Our design consultant, and the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, recommended that it be scaled to the size of the other existing monuments.

In addition, we were renovating the Talbot County Free Library and we thought that a room dedicated to Frederick Douglass would certainly be appropriate and would give visitors to the area a place to go and study about or learn more about the life of Frederick Douglass. The library is directly across the street from the courthouse, so it was certainly an appropriate place for anyone who visited the statue.

We decided to dedicate the old Maryland Room as the space that would offer reference materials, etc., for anyone interested in learning about Frederick Douglass.

After all, one of his most important contributions was his message regarding the importance of education and learning to set one free. This room was subsequently dedicated the Frederick Douglass Reading Room and exists to provide visitors and scholars with valuable reading materials and other resources describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

Turning our attention to the Talbot Boys, I realize that the statue may offend some. The history of this area, however, included families split between the North and the South. Like it or not, it is part of our history here in Talbot County.

The statue of Frederick Douglass was a triumph for many people who thought that Talbot County should honor its most famous son. The Frederick Douglass statue stands in proud contrast to the Talbot Boys statue, and we cannot deny our history nor change what happened.

When I traveled to East Germany in college, I visited one of the Nazi Concentration Camps. I was sickened by what I saw and yet I am glad that these camps were preserved so that we would know what happened in World War II, lest we forget the history of what happened. Likewise, here in Talbot County, our past tells a story.

In summation, I suppose we could follow the trend of political correctness and remove the Talbot Boys statue. The editorial board has expressed its obvious opinion to remove the Talbot Boys statue.
I would hope, however, that we would pause to consider the contrast it represents. The victory of the life of Frederick Douglass cannot be viewed in proper context without the contrasting fight to end slavery and the victory of a great education.

The Talbot Boys statue reminds us that the Civil War tore families apart and young men went to war and died fighting against, in some cases, members of their own family. If it were removed from the courthouse grounds, the observer might never understand that our county faced an internal struggle of its own during the Civil War.

This struggle can likewise be viewed at St. Stephens Church in the village of Unionville, where African-American soldiers are buried, who fought for the Union and who returned to Talbot after the war.

There are so many stories to tell, some happy and some sad.

These monuments are made to remind us of our historical past, and we should not be so arrogant to think that we can correct the mistakes of history by removing the monuments of the past.

Dirck Bartlett is serving in his third term as a member of the Talbot County Council. This has been reprinted with Mr. Bartlett’s permission from the Star-Democrat from July 1.

The Talbot Boys Conversation: Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson

It seemed inevitable that once Nikki Haley, the very conservative, very Republican, and very dynamic South Carolina governor, announced last June that the Confederate flag should be removed from the statehouse grounds, every other state and town which had any connection to the Civil War would be looking very carefully on how those governments, directly or indirectly, have honored their own Confederate veterans in the tragic war between the states.

This certainly is the case with Talbot County. Over the last few weeks, in letters to the editor, at civic meetings, cocktail parties, and in the coffee houses of Easton and St. Michaels, the community is indeed having a real conversation about the future of the “Talbot Boys,” the memorial which honors the fallen local men who had fought for the South’s secession to preserve slavery, which is located on the front lawn of the historic Talbot County Courthouse.

In preparation of the first public meeting, now scheduled for next Wednesday at 4pm, with the Talbot County Council and local representatives of the NAACP discussing the status of the memorial, and to support what promises to be an important community conversation about race, history, and how we honor the courageous, the Spy starts our own series on the Talbot Boys.

The Spy starts this new project with Anglican Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson Bishop of The Anglican Diocese of The Chesapeake. A local leader in race relations since he arrived on the Eastern Shore twenty-five years ago, Bishop Johnson also currently chairs the Talbot Association of Clergy. Through these special experiences, he shares his perspective on the future of the Talbot Boys.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length