Bill calls for Roger Taney statue to be removed from Maryland State House grounds

Legislation might have had the statue of Civil War-era Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney at the Maryland State House destroyed, but proponents now say they'd be satisfied to see the memorial to the author of the Dred Scott decision removed.

Del. Jill Carter of Baltimore, whose original bill called for the state's Commission on Artistic Property to destroy the brooding statue, said she has agreed to a compromise that would pack the Frederick County jurist off to the Maryland State Archives.


The bill, which has a Senate version introduced by Sen. Anthony Muse of Prince George's County, is scheduled for a hearing in a House of Delegates committee Wednesday.

Carter, like Muse an African-American Democrat, said the legislation reflects a growing interest in reviewing public images of "slavery, discrimination and dehumanization of black people."


"More and more people realize these symbols represent part of the past we should not celebrate," Carter said.

Taney was the author of the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott vs. Sanford, which held that African Americans were not citizens and "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

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The decision is widely regarded as one of the worst in Supreme Court history and a contributing factor in the drift toward Civil War.

The 83,000-pound sculpture of Taney was placed on the State House grounds in 1872, at a time of pro-Southern sympathies in Maryland in the aftermath of the war. Taney remained with the Union after secession and died in office in 1864.

There have been many proposals in recent decades to remove the Taney statue, but a compromise was struck in the 1990s under which a statue of Thurgood Marshall, a Marylander who became of the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court, was erected on Lawyers Mall, on the other side of the State House. Many lawmakers, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch, have expressed support for that compromise.

Carter's proposal stood out from others because it called for the statue's destruction. She said she would have no qualms about destroying the artwork but said moving it to a museum could defuse some opposition.

The state Department of Legislative Services estimated the removal would cost $77,500 and annual storage would cost more than $5,000 a year.

The bill that seeks to remove the Taney statue follows a wave of revulsion against Confederate symbols after the mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church in June.


A young man known for displaying the Confederate battle flag was charged in that attack, and South Carolina subsequently removed that symbol of white resistance to desegregation from the state capitol grounds.

Last month, a commission appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recommended that the city remove a monument to Taney at Mount Vernon Place as well as the monument to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in the Wyman Park Dell.