University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC) trustees have voted to approve the removal of the name of legendary Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall from its law school, citing evidence that Marshall approved of slavery and traded in slaves.
Effective July 1, 2021, the law school will henceforth be known as the “UI-Chicago School of Law.” A task force earlier this year cited “newly discovered research regarding his role as a slave trader, slave owner of hundreds of slaves, pro-slavery jurisprudence, and racist views render him a highly inappropriate namesake for the law school,” the Associated Press noted.
Marshall, who was the fourth Chief Justice in U.S. history, is revered for establishing the principle of judicial review in American jurisprudence, allowing the Supreme Court to overturn unconstitutional legislation in Marbury v. Madison (1803).
However, like others of the founding generation of the Republic, Marshall’s legacy is tainted by slavery in his native Virginia. Libertarian legal scholar Scott Douglas Gerber defended the idea of removing Marshall’s name in a recent op-ed:
[O[ne of the nation’s leading historians of the law of American slavery, Paul Finkelman, recently outed Marshall as a racist who wrote opinions in favor of slavery and personally profited from it.
As Finkelman proves beyond any doubt in his book Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court, Marshall owned hundreds of slaves and trafficked in the slave trade. Marshall was also, Finkelman demonstrates, so corrupted by his personal financial stake in the perpetuation of human bondage that he “never wrote an opinion supporting a claim to liberty brought by a slave” and he never wrote an opinion “punishing someone for illegal participation in the African slave trade.”
This should fundamentally change our thinking about Marshall.
The John Marshall Law School, established in 1899, was a private law school until a merger with UIC in 2019, the AP notes.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it). His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.