Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today co-sponsored a bill led by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) 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.
“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.”
“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.”
Original cosponsors of the bill include Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Karen Bass (D-Calif.), House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation, including Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.).