With Baltimore’s Confederate memorials now gone, the political fight against Maryland’s commemorations of those who supported or advanced the Lost Cause has shifted to Annapolis.
Yesterday, the Maryland State House Trust voted to remove a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney from the lawn of the building in Maryland’s capital. The Capital Gazette reports the vote took place by email. Three of the trust’s four members – House Speaker Mike Busch, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and trust representative Charles Edson – voted to get rid of the statue, while Senate President Mike Miller didn’t cast a vote.
At issue is Taney’s legacy as a judge. He’s known largely for his notorious Dred Scott ruling from 1857 in which he determined that black people were property and could not be U.S. citizens, allowing slavery to continue for nearly a decade more until the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution.
Busch was among the first Maryland legislative leaders to call for the removal of Taney’s statue this week. He tweeted on Monday,”100% support removing Taney from State House. We can find a better way to honor history & light a path to progress equality & understanding.”
He aired his thoughts after cities around the country began mulling whether to remove their statues to Confederate heroes and soldiers following Saturday’s deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Va. The violent afternoon, in which three people died and about three dozen were injured, was sparked by the presence of hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists who gathered there to defend a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
One day later, Gov. Larry Hogan made the surprising announcement that he agreed. Only two years earlier, the governor had fended off calls to remove the statue, calling such efforts “political correctness run amok.” But on Tuesday, he said in a statement that taking down Taney’s statue was “the right thing to do.”
Miller was the only one of the four members to publicly object to the removal, but said he wouldn’t try to block any vote on the matter.
The path forward for Taney’s statue remains unclear. The trust didn’t approve any plan for what to do with the bronze bust.
The Rev. Mike Berry, who helped orchestrate a reconciliation meeting earlier this year between the descendants of Taney and Dred Scott, the slave at the center of the judge’s hallmark case, suggested an interesting idea to the Capital Gazette. He proposed moving Taney’s statue just down the road in Annapolis to Lawyers Mall, to stand next to a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first-ever black Supreme Court justice.
“Why would we want to bury that history?” he was quoted as saying. “Why don’t we tell that history in Annapolis? Removing it allows white people to continue on in their denial.”
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