Statue of Thurgood Marshall to replace bust of racist Supreme Court justice at US Capitol

The civil rights attorney was the Supreme Court's first African-American justice.

The statue of American civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall will replace the bust of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney in the Capitol, according to NBC News.

As NPR reports, House lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill calling for the removal of Taney’s bust, saying it is “unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the Capitol.” 

It was Taney who authored Dred Scott’s decision, which ruled that Black people were ineligible to become U.S. citizens.

A statue of Thurgood Marshall (front, center), the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Black justice, will replace one of the justice who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which stated that Black people were not U.S. citizens. (AP Photo, File)

The statue of Taney, who led the Supreme Court from 1836 to 1864, sits at the entrance of the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol, NBC News reports. The legislation also calls for a bust of Marshall, the first Black person to serve on the high court, to be created within in two years and placed in the Capitol.

“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 rooms, that of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s Dred Scott v. Sandford decision,” the legislation says, according to NPR.

The bill next goes to President Joe Biden for his signature. After it becomes law, Taney’s bust must be removed within 45 days.

Taney’s home state of Maryland previously removed statues of him as part of a nationwide effort to dismantle white supremacist symbols across the country. Since 2020, following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers — which sparked global racial justice protests — nearly 100 Confederate monuments have been taken down.

“Taney’s ruling denied Black Americans citizenship, upheld slavery, and contributed, frankly, to the outbreak of the Civil War,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who led the effort to remove the statue, said on the House floor on Wednesday. “That’s why I and so many others advocated for his statue’s removal from the Maryland State House.”

“For Black Americans who have grown up in segregation, face racial violence and still confront institutional racism today, seeing figures like Taney honored here is a searing reminder that the past is present,” Hoyer said, NBC News reports.

Referring to himself as a “son of the segregated South,” Rep. Al Green, D-Texas welcomed the legislation. “To those of us who have had to sit in the back of the bus, the balcony of the movie and go to the back doors of restaurants, it means a lot,” he said.

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