Politics

Another Prominent Image Of Slavery Is Probably Coming Down

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan announced his support for removing a statue of Chief Justice Roger Taney from the Maryland statehouse’s grounds Tuesday.

Taney served on the Supreme Court from 1836 to 1864. He earned notoriety for writing the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which found blacks were not citizens of the United States.

“While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “With that in mind, I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do, and we will ask the State House Trust to take that action immediately.”

The Trust is a four-member panel that administers statehouse facilities and grounds. Its members include Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Senate President Thomas Miller, House of Delegate Speaker Michael E. Busch, and Roger Edson, chair of the Maryland Historical Trust.

Though the governor has opposed efforts to remove contentious statuary in the past, last weekend’s events in Charlottesville prompted Hogan to revise his position.

“The governor was disgusted by the events in Charlottesville and rightly concluded that these memorials had become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots,” spokesman Doug Mayer told the Baltimore Sun. “Their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”

Dred Scott was a black man enslaved in Missouri by U.S. Army surgeon Dr. John Emerson. Emerson took Scott to postings in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory in the late 1830s. The Emersons returned to Missouri in 1840, whereupon Scott and his family sued for their freedom, arguing they were effectively emancipated during their period of residence in the free north.

The Supreme Court eventually concluded Scott was not a citizen of the United States by virtue of his slave status, and thus had no standing to sue. In his opinion for the Court, Taney argued that slaves had been excluded from citizenship at the founding of the republic.

“They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations,” he wrote. “[A]nd so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the removal of a Taney statue near the Mount Vernon neighborhood late Tuesday.

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