WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Steny Hoyer (all D-Md.), and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced Monday that the bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney that was on display in the Old Supreme Court Chamber, has been removed permanently. The action comes weeks after enactment of their legislation, S. 5229, that ordered the removal. A bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the high court, will be added at an appropriate place in the Capitol at a later time.
“Roger Taney and others who actively helped prolong slavery should find no home within the walls of the U.S. Capitol,” said Senator Cardin. “Thurgood Marshall helped advance civil rights in this nation and inspired a generation of legal minds, in part due to his successful Supreme Court argument in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place in American society. It is wholly appropriate that such a legal icon have a place of honor. Both Taney and Marshall hailed from Maryland, but Marshall was a champion for hope and justice.”
“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. 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,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Nearly 165 years ago, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney – an enslaver from Maryland – delivered the majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision, which denied Black Americans citizenship, upheld slavery, and contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. Now, his bust has finally been removed from the Robing Room of the Old Supreme Court Chamber in our Capitol. Along with my colleagues Reps. Jim Clyburn, Joyce Beatty, and Barbara Lee, I was proud to help sponsor the House version of the legislation that secured its removal. When millions of visitors to the Capitol walked past Taney’s bust each year, they saw the worst that America has to offer. Thanks to this same legislation, they will soon see the best America has to offer when walking past a new bust of civil-rights icon Justice Thurgood Marshall that we have commissioned for the Capitol Complex. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to remove symbols of hate from our Capitol’s halls and to ensure that the art we display reflects the principles that our nation upholds,” said Congressman Hoyer.
“There is no better place to continue the work to dismantle institutional racism piece by piece, brick by brick, statue by statue, than the people’s house—the nation’s Capitol.” said Senator Schumer. “Thurgood Marshall is an American icon who brought an unmatched legal expertise and dedication to justice to our nation’s highest court. As an indispensable leader of the Civil Rights Movement it is long overdue that he be honored with a statue in the Capitol.”
“The Capitol is the most recognizable symbol of democracy, a place where all Americans have their voices represented and heard. We must ensure that its art reflects the values on which our country stands,” said Senator Klobuchar. “It’s only fitting that we replace a statue of the man who wrote the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford decision with a statue of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on our nation’s highest court. By installing a statue of this trailblazing Justice in the Capitol, we are ensuring that Justice Marshall’s legacy of advancing justice and equality will be commemorated in the heart of our democracy.”
“Monuments in the United States Capitol are meant to honor patriots who served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to better our nation,” said Senator Booker. “Those who endorsed white supremacy and helped preserve the institution of slavery don’t deserve to be honored in one of our nation’s most sacred public spaces. I welcome the long overdue removal of the bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the majority opinion in the Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and ultimately led to the Civil War. I celebrate the addition of a bust honoring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who helped advance the cause of equal justice under the law.”
The Dred Scott decision, which Taney authored in 1857, “declared that African Americans were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in Federal courts. This decision further declared that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.” The effects of Dred Scott would be overturned years later by the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.