By Edward Epstein
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Abraham Lincoln can at last rest easy.
In the state of Maryland he is no longer a "despot" and a "tyrant," and his grand Union army is no longer "northern scum."
On May 18, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed bipartisan legislation that finally got rid of the pro-Confederate state song, "Maryland, My Maryland." The words to the anthem, sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum," were written by a Confederate sympathizer in 1861, after Lincoln passed through Baltimore by train on his way to his March 4 inauguration. On April 19, 1861, pro-southerners rioted, fighting with Union troops in the city. The result was "patriotic gore" on the streets of the city, according to the nine-stanza poem that encouraged resistance to the Union cause.
The song became a Confederate anthem during the Civil War. But it wasn't until 1939 that the song got its official designation in Maryland. Efforts to undo that designation have been introduced in the state legislature since the 1970s.
Maryland has changed sharply in recent decades. It is now one of the most solidly Democratic states in the union, with the party holding super majorities in both houses of the legislature. The impetus for finally doing away with the anthem came from House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, the first African-American woman to hold the post. She has made getting rid of the song a priority since she became speaker in May 2019.
In signing the bill, Hogan called the song "a relic of the Confederacy" and termed it "clearly outdated and out of touch," according to the Washington Post.
The legislation is part of a widespread move to remove symbols associated with the Confederacy that were put in place long after the Civil War, more as pro-segregation monuments than having to do with actually honoring veterans of the 1861-65 conflict.