It's crucial that I include this update, because there have been many developments over the last few days; and it's in the interest of fairness that I add the concerns raised by Laurel resident Maureen Johnson, who has pointed out the issue of Charles Stanley's service in the Confederate Army.
The concern in this instance, she clarified, isn't necessarily the naming of a library after a Confederate soldier; but rather the location of the library—in the heart of Laurel's historically African-American neighborhood, The Grove—with the new building also poised to occupy a larger portion of Emancipation Park.
Having met Maureen in person yesterday, I can attest that she is a wonderful, engaging lady who cares deeply about her hometown. She's also acutely aware of the sensitivity of this entire situation, and how it affects numerous people on numerous levels.
When I created this petition urging the Library Board to keep the Stanley name, it was solely in response to the news that the PGCMLS was planning to drop the name "in order to make the library easier to find"—which I think we can all agree was a universally absurd reason.
As far as I was concerned at the time, the only issue at hand was the library's potential breach of contract with the Stanley family—the descendants of Charles Stanley, who generously donated the land for which a library in his honor was constructed.
For whatever reason, it seems that the desire to research Stanley's life in greater detail has just never manifested unitl now, when the library threatened to drop his name.
Because of the manner and timing in which this petition was launched, I fear that it's become a skewed measuring tool due to the fact that most have signed it at face value before knowing anything about the Confederacy issue—and that's something that everyone should have the opportunity to consider for themselves.
As I discussed with Maureen, my concern is that Stanley's legacy of extensive public service to Laurel shouldn't be tarnished outright without significantly more research. At present, there's no evidence to suggest that he was anything more than a private in Company B of the First Regiment, Maryland Cavalry—which in and of itself should by no means be equated to the likes of slave-owners, the Ku Klux Klan, and other horrors that unfortunately have become associated with the word "Confederacy".
There are snippets emerging of other potentially important and redeeming deeds that Stanley may have done in his lifetime that specifically benefited the African-American community, too—if verifiable, those types of things would certainly have to be taken into consideration, as well. By the same token, should more troubling details surface about his Civil War experience, it needs to come to light for history's sake, and particularly for the sake of the surrounding community in which his namesake library has stood for nearly half a century.
I've posted a similar addendum to the original Lost Laurel blog article, which I encourage you to read. I've also included additional links to recent Laurel Leader articles that include a number of relevant points and opinions.
***** The original post appears below *****
The current library sits on land donated by the family of Charles H. Stanley (1842-1913), the second mayor of Laurel and the founder and president of the historic Citizens National Bank on Main Street.
The original deed transferring the land where the library currently sits—as well as where the new library will be constructed—specifically states that "...Prince George's County will erect a Public Library Building to be known as 'The Stanley Memorial Library' ".
However, the Prince George's County Board of Library Trustees, as well as PGCMLS director Kathleen Teaze plan to eliminate the Stanley name from the new building, opting instead to relegate it to a "photo and memorial in the lobby" while officially renaming the building "The Laurel Library". This is an unacceptable compromise.
The change, they claim, is based on the notion that "naming a branch library according to its location helps the public find libraries close to their neighborhoods, whereas a building named after a person tends to render a library harder to find." The new library will be located in exactly the same space as the current one, which has occupied the corner of 7th Street and Talbott Avenue for nearly 47 years. Suffice it to say, most visitors already know where the library is; and for new residents who may not have discovered it, an Internet search would easily yield the result—regardless of the name.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and the Laurel Historical Society have both formally opposed the name change, yet PGCMLS has yet to reverse its decision.
Please tell the Prince George's County Memorial Library System that is is wrong to remove the Stanley name from the new building, for which the land beneath it was provided. PGCMLS may still refer to the branch as "The Laurel Library" on its website and in its official capacity; and the public can continue to do the same. But the Stanley name should always grace any library building that occupies this space.
For additional reference:
Richard Friend started this petition with a single signature, and now has 497 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.