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Politics

Congress removes bust of Roger B. Taney, author of Dred Scott decision; bust of Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall to replace it

When President Joe Biden gives his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday night, a bust of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney will be missing.

Taney’s sculpture was taken away from the entrance to the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol weeks after a law passed that called for its permanent removal. Taney, a Calvert County native who lived in Baltimore, authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857 that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans living in free states.

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The Old Supreme Court Chamber is where the high court met from 1810 until 1860. Taney led the court as the nation’s fifth chief justice in that period, from 1836 to 1864.

A bust of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, a Baltimore native and the first Black American to serve on the high court, will take its place. Marshall’s bust will be displayed somewhere in the Capitol within two years.

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Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin, Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Steny Hoyer are among several Democrats that authored the legislation. Hoyer led the effort to remove the bust.

“The people we memorialize in the halls of the Capitol should be leaders who worked to expand liberty and build a more perfect union — not those who sought to deepen injustices in our country. That’s why it’s fitting that we’ve finally removed from display the likeness of former Justice Taney, who, as author of the shameful Dred Scott decision, used his power on the Supreme Court to deny African Americans their most basic legal rights,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

“Soon, in its place we will see the bust of former Justice Thurgood Marshall, a Marylander we are proud to celebrate for his trailblazing efforts to advance civil rights and justice for all,” he said.

The Dred Scott decision came during the lead-up to the Civil War. The decision was overturned by the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution.

A statue of Taney that stood outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis and a monument in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood were removed in 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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