Bust of Historic Supreme Court Justice Could Be Next To Go from Capitol


The House will vote on whether to remove from the U.S. Capitol a bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared African-Americans couldn’t be citizens.

The two-foot-high marble bust of Taney is outside a room in the Capitol where the Supreme Court met for half a century, from 1810 to 1860.

It was in that room that Taney, the nation’s fifth chief justice, announced the infamous Dred Scott decision.

There’s at least one vote for Taney to stay. Lynne M. Jackson, Scott’s great-great-granddaughter, says that if it were up to her, she’d leave Taney’s bust where it is.

But she said she’d add something too: a bust of Dred Scott.

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“I’m not really a fan of wiping things out,” Jackson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press earlier this week from her home in Missouri.

The president and founder of The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, Jackson has seen other Taney sculptures removed in recent years, particularly in Taney’s native Maryland, where he was the state’s attorney general before becoming U.S. attorney general and then chief justice.

In the summer of 2017, Baltimore’s mayor removed statues of Robert E. Lee, Taney and others. A statue of Taney was removed from the grounds of the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, around the same time. And a bust of Taney was removed that year from Frederick, Maryland.

But Taney’s name and likeness remain in plenty of other places.

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Missouri has a Taney County. Philadelphia has a Taney Street. And another Taney bust sits alongside all other former chief justices in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall, a soaring, marble-columned corridor that leads to the courtroom. A portrait of Taney hangs in one of the court’s conference rooms.

Jackson said she believes that what memorials honoring figures like Taney need is context.

At the Capitol, the fact that Taney is “there by himself is lopsided,” Jackson said in suggesting a bust of Scott should be added. She had proposed a similar fix for the Taney statue in Annapolis.

The bill lawmakers will vote on Wednesday proposes replacing the Taney bust with one of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 became the Supreme Court’s first black justice.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, where prospects for passage are uncertain.

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But even if a bill passes both chambers, it would still need the president’s signature.

President Donald Trump has opposed the removal of historic statues elsewhere. He’s strongly condemned rioters who toppled statues following the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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