For 40 years, Maryland lawmakers have tried to replace the state song “Maryland, My Maryland,” which celebrates the Confederacy with lyrics many consider racist. A 2018 bill to redesignate the song as a “historical song” died in committee.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody this spring, Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) — the first African American person to hold that powerful position — called for getting rid of the song altogether.
And now U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), who served nine years in Annapolis before being elected to Congress, has helped write a history-laden alternative.
Gone are the lyrics, written by Baltimore native and Confederate sympathizer James Ryder Randall in 1861, that refer to Abraham Lincoln as a “tyrant” and urge Maryland to secede and join the Confederacy against the “Northern scum.” And out is the tune set to “Lauriger Horatius.”
In its place is a slightly folksy beat with lyrics that pay homage to famous Marylanders including Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Billie Holliday, Edgar Allan Poe, Rachel Carson and the late representative Elijah E. Cummings, who died last year. Orioles and the Chesapeake Bay get a mention too.
“Oh say can you see Elijah Cummings now, never took his hand from the freedom plow,” Northwestern High’s Mevaa sang soulfully.