On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would get rid of a statue on display at the U.S. Capitol which depicts Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney. Taney was behind the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which justified slavery and also categorically denied Black Americans’ citizenship.
The bill also deems Taney’s statue “unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the Capitol.” In addition, the legislation explains:
“While the removal of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s bust from the Capitol does not relieve the Congress of the historical wrongs it committed to protect the institution of slavery, it expresses Congress’s recognition of one of the most notorious wrongs to have ever taken place in one of its 19 rooms.”
The Joint Committee of Congress on the Library is responsible for taking down Taney’s bust and replacing it with a statue of Thurgood Marshall instead, who is the Supreme Court’s first Black justice. The bill was passed by the Senate unanimously last week. For it to be approved now requires President Biden’s signature.
The initiative was first introduced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. David Trone—who are both democrats—back in March 2020. The House passed it a few months later (the vote was 305-113). However, it did not advance in the Senate.
In recent years, Congress have made similar decisions when it comes to removing other statues from the Civil War era. A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was taken out of the Capitol in 2020. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also ordered the removal of several portraits of Confederate House speakers from the Capitol that same year.
“There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy,” she stated in a letter to Cheryl Johnson, clerk of the House of Representatives, in 2020.