(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) cosponsored a Resolution introduced by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) to remove a bust of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from public display in the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a bust of Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. Taney, the Maryland-born Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1836-1864, wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case on March 6, 1857, which declared that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States and struck down limits on the expansion of slavery. This past Friday marked the 163rd anniversary of that ruling, which continues to be a mark of shame for the United States. Currently, a bust of Taney is displayed prominently alongside those of his four predecessors, Chief Justices John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall, in the U.S. Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber, seen by millions of visitors each year. The legislation introduced today would replace Taney’s bust with one of Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
“A bust of Chief Justice Taney should not be displayed in a place of honor in our nation’s Capitol,” Hoyer said. “In Maryland we made the decision to remove a statue of Taney from the State House grounds, reflecting his shameful contribution to the evil system of slavery and its defense, and we ought to do the same here. ‘We are better than this,’ as our late colleague Elijah Cummings would say. It is time to make it clear to visitors from across our nation and from abroad that America celebrates champions of inclusion and equality, not proponents of hate and injustice.”
Additional original cosponsors of Leader Hoyer’s bill are Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass (CA-37), House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (MA-02), and Members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation, including Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), and David Trone (MD-06).
“The people’s house can never really be for the people, with reminders of a painful history that sought to eliminate our existence,” said Chairwoman Bass. "We are entering a new era where we are reexamining our history and acknowledging that the physical reminders of white supremacy, cannot continue to be celebrated. With initiatives such as the 1619 Project which commemorated the 400 years of enslavement in America, the CBC’s historic trip to Ghana, the opening of an exhibit dedicated to Sally Hemmings in Jefferson’s Monticello mansion, and the creation of the Slave Memorial at Mount Vernon shows us that US history is being retold- the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is time to replace the monuments of oppression with the monuments of liberty. The removal of Chief Justice Taney’s bust is long overdue in our nation’s capital. I am proud to join Leader Hoyer today as a co-sponsor for this bill to erect a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall to replace the bust of Chief Justice Taney.”
“America’s Capitol Building ought to celebrate freedom and equality – not those who tried to defend racism and slavery,” said Congressman McGovern. “Removing this bust from the Capitol is the right thing to do. Having Roger Taney’s statue here sends the wrong message to the members, staffers, and millions of visitors who walk through these doors every year. It’s time to live up to our values and honor those who opposed injustice – not those who perpetuated it.”
Maryland has a rich history that we can all be proud of. Unfortunately, the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Taney is a stain on that history,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “Displays in the U.S. Capitol should be reserved for Americans and patriots who reflect our country’s democratic principles – that we are the land of the free. I am proud to join Leader Hoyer and several of my Maryland colleagues in seeking to set the record straight by replacing Taney’s bust with that of an American who truly reflects our values.”
“In our long, ongoing march toward a more perfect union, it’s our responsibility to extol American icons who fought for justice and equality, not glorify those who fought to preserve slavery and oppression,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Following in the footsteps of states like Maryland – which recently removed a Taney statue from the front lawn of the Maryland State House – we’re taking an important step forward today to remove the bust of Roger Taney from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a champion of civil rights.”
“American heroes have fought and died to secure freedom and equality under the law for our fellow citizens - Chief Justice Taney instead stood in their way,” said Congressman Anthony G. Brown. “In using his position to deny basic human rights to black Americans, Justice Taney enshrined racism, bigotry and discrimination into this nation’s jurisprudence for a century. Were it up to Justice Taney, many of my colleagues and I would not be able to serve our constituents in the halls of Congress. He is undeserving of a place of honor in the U.S. Capitol. Our monuments should lift up those who led the way toward more perfect union; Justice Marshall was one such hero.”
“In the statues and busts of the U.S. Capitol, Maryland should be represented by the man who put the Supreme Court on the side of justice and civil rights, not the man who put the Supreme Court on the side of slavery and oppression,” said Congressman Raskin.
“The Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court decision is a stain on our country's history, and it was made under the Taney Court,” said Congressman Trone. “It’s time for us to remove this statue and denounce the institutions of slavery and racism once and for all. They have no place in the United States Capitol or anywhere in our country.”
To read the full text of the resolution, click here.