Congress Votes to Remove Bust of Supreme Court Justice Who Penned the Dred Scott Decision

FILE - A marble bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney is displayed in the Old Supreme Court Ch
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Congress has voted to remove a bust of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, the justice who penned the Dred Scott decision, denying citizenship to black Americans and defending slavery, from the U.S. Capitol.

The move follows the House approving the measure on Wednesday, deeming a “bust of his likeness unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the Capitol.”

According to NBC News:

The measure directs the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove Taney’s bust, which sits inside the entrance to the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol, and replace it with a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first Black justice.

 “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 bill, which now requires a signature from President Biden, reads.
This is hardly the first instance of Congress taking action to remove historical paintings or statues in the halls of Congress.

In June 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ordered the removal of four confederate portraits from the U.S. Capitol on Juneteenth. At the time, she told reporters there was “no room in hallowed halls of democracy, this temple of democracy, to memorialize people who embody violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy” in the U.S. Capitol.  

“We didn’t know about this until we were taking inventory of the statues and the curator told us that there were four paintings of speakers in the Capitol of the United States, four speakers who served in the Confederacy,” she said, announcing their removal. 

Ironically, all four of the individuals removed were members of Pelosi’s own party.

As Breitbart News reported:

The speaker formally made the request in a letter to House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, requesting the “immediate removal of the portraits in the U.S. Capitol of four previous Speakers who served in the Confederacy: Robert Hunter of Virginia (1839-1841), Howell Cobb of Georgia (1849-1851), James Orr of South Carolina (1857-1859), and Charles Crisp of Georgia (1891-1895)” — all of whom were once members of Pelosi’s very own party.

Pelosi deemed the portraits of the Democrats “symbols that set back our nation’s work to confront and combat bigotry.”

Notably, a statue of Taney was also removed from the Maryland State House in August, 2017. 


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