The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a bill that would replace a bust of former Chief Justice Roger Taney, the man who authored the majority opinion in the infamous Dred Scott case, in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the US Capitol with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
Dred Scott v. Sandford was the 1857 decision that established neither enslaved nor free African Americans were citizens of the United States and thus were not protected under the US Constitution. The ruling remained law until it was overturned by the 13th and 14th amendments.
The bill already passed the Senate and now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.
“In removing Taney’s bust, I’m not asking that we would hold Taney to today’s moral standards,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Wednesday while advocating for the statue’s removal. “On the contrary, let us hold him to the standard of his contemporaries: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln … and all of those who understood that the enslavement of others has always been an immoral act. Figures like Taney belong in history textbooks and classroom discussions, not in marbled bronze on public display of honor.”
A similar effort in 2020 that passed the House aimed to remove Taney’s bust from the Capitol along with monuments honoring Confederates. That bill, however, was eventually stalled by Senate Republicans who argued that states should decide which statues they’d like to display in the Capitol.
A statue of Taney was previously removed in 2017 from the grounds of the Maryland State House. At the time, the state’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said, “While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history.”
Wednesday’s move by the House is the latest in a series of efforts around the country to remove statues of those who supported slavery and segregation, a movement that was largely sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in 2020.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported after Floyd’s murder that 157 Confederate memorials were removed in the US, and in 2021, 73 Confederate monuments were removed or renamed.