In the same room where slavery was abolished in Maryland in 1864, life-sized bronze statues of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were unveiled by state legislators.
During a ceremony on Monday night in the Old House Chamber, a special joint session of the Maryland General Assembly dedicated the statues.
“A mark of true greatness is shining light on a system of oppression and having the courage to change it,” House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Maryland’s first Black female House speaker, said in prepared remarks, according to ABC News. “The statues are a reminder that our laws aren’t always right or just. But there’s always room for improvement.”
Tubman and Douglass were both born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The statues show Tubman and Douglass in the same dress and age that they would have been in 1864, ABC News reported.
Just as statues of the abolitionists were celebrated in the statement, in recent years Maryland has removed the statue of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court justice from Maryland who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding slavery and denying the right of Black Americans to be citizens. That ruling established the “separate but equal” doctrine that stood for decades before the Brown v. Board of Education decision upended it in 1954.
Maryland officials voted to remove Taney’s statue a few days after Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia following a protest by white nationalists upset that a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was being removed. Heyer was supporting the removal of Lee’s statue when a man rammed his car through a crowd of people, plowing her down.
And last month, the Maryland Senate removed a portrait of a white governor who had been on the wall for 115 years and replaced it with a painting of Verda Freeman Welcome, who was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1962 becoming America’s first Black female state senator. Welcome’s portrait is the first of a Black person to be put up on the walls of the Maryland Senate.