Posted on April 7, 2021

Baltimore Removes Statue of Slave Owner from Canton Park

McKenna Oxenden, Baltimore Sun, April 6, 2021

A statue dedicated in 1980 to Capt. John O’Donnell, an Irish-born merchant who enslaved people on his plantation in Canton, was removed Monday night by Baltimore City.

Mayor Brandon Scott, who ordered the removal, said it was a “historical moment” but far from the last in a city with no shortage of monuments, streets and schools named for people with oppressive legacies. He pledged to work with the city administrator to establish an official process for reviewing “these cruel monuments while continuing to promote equitable policies to right yesterday’s wrongs.”

“Symbols that occupy our collective landscape matter,” Scott said in an interview Tuesday. {snip}

Scott thanked the Canton Anti-Racism Alliance for its persistence and continuous work in “building an inclusive Baltimore.”

A petition began circulating last fall to remove the statue from what’s known as O’Donnell Square Park. It was signed by 921 people as of Tuesday afternoon.


Torbin Green, a volunteer who helps clean the park and board member of the association, said he was “elated” and felt “relieved” that the board and community succeeded in getting the statue removed after urging officials for nearly a year.

“While I would be working in the garden, I would look up and feel like I was on his plantation,” said Green, who’s been helping maintain the park and garden for nearly seven years. {snip}


O’Donnell bought about 2,000 acres in 1786 along the waterfront and named the land Canton after the city in China. The country’s first census listed 36 enslaved people living at O’Donnell’s plantation, according to a 1978 book, “Historic Canton” by Norman G. Rukert Sr.

Historians believe O’Donnell’s was the first ship from Baltimore to reach China.