2020 | Government

County Council wants legislature to change Maryland’s state song

Council also supports name change for Washington football team

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The Montgomery County Council wants the state legislature to change Maryland's state song.

Montgomery County’s council members want state lawmakers to change Maryland’s official song, which celebrates the Confederacy and was used as a battle hymn.

They also are publicly speaking out against “Redskins” as the name of the Washington football team and supporting the team decision to change the name.

The state song was written by Confederate supporter James Ryder Randall in 1861 and refers to President Abraham Lincoln as a “despot, “tyrant” and “vandal.” It refers to Union soldiers as “Northern scum.”

More than 70 years after the song was written, the Maryland General Assembly adopted it as the state song in 1939. But there has been a movement among some state lawmakers in recent years to change the song or adopt a new one.

The County Council is scheduled to host a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday for a resolution urging state lawmakers to change the state song.

The same day, the council is expected to vote on a resolution that supports the name change of the Washington Redskins.

The team’s ownership announced Monday that it was relinquishing the name “Redskins,” but it had not announced a new name as of Thursday.

During a council meeting on Tuesday, Council Vice President Tom Hucker called the state song a “hurtful embarrassment” that celebrates the Confederacy and is long overdue for a change.

Council Member Evan Glass said Randall wrote the song in response to a “situation he did not like — the Union troops confronting Confederate sympathizers.”

Council Member Nancy Navarro said the song and other symbols of racism, such as streets or schools named after Confederate soldiers or sympathizers, matter and need to be changed.

“We can’t, as adults, talk about all of these issues of equity and justice and then our children have this complete disconnect when they see and celebrate these teams and they see these names,” she said.

Dealing with racist symbols is important, but more needs to be done, Council Member Hans Riemer said.

The Washington Redskins name has been a “disgrace” for decades, he said.

“I think changing the name is going to allow a lot more people in the region to feel good about a local sports team and potentially even get interested in following that team instead of feeling insulted and embarrassed every time they think of that team,” he said.

Council Member Gabe Albornoz said he’s been a lifelong fan of the football team.

“I really understand and respect some of the members in our community that, on some level, feel like this is a loss or political correctness run amok. It is not,” he said. “I have not purchased merchandise in years. I cannot look at my kids with a straight face and encourage them to support a team that so clearly represents racist and past views that we must turn the page on.”

Council Member Craig Rice said he was happy that the Redskins’ name would be changed, but it happened only after “pressure from sponsors and bigtime names” who threatened to withdraw their financial support.

The change took too long, he said.

“It says a lot about how folks truly feel. It says a lot about the reason why we need to continue to press and say that racism still is a challenge in our communities,” he said.

Both changes — the song and the team name — would represent progress and change that is needed and difficult, Council Member Will Jawando said.

“This is something that is just the beginning of the correction and the retelling of history in the right way,” he said. “We must make changes in policy and budget allocation and legislation that underscores why these names and things were done the way they were.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.