The House voted to pass a bill to remove a bust of Roger Taney, an ardent defender of slavery from the U.S. Capitol, and replace it with a statue of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice, reports NBC News.
Passed by voice vote, the bill states that Taney's authorship of the 1857 Dred Scott decision which ruled that Black people were ineligible to become U.S. citizens "renders a bust of his likeness unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to 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 19 rooms," the bill reads.
Taney’s bust will be moved from the entryway of the Old Supreme Court Chamber, which is located in a room on the Senate side of the Capitol, no later than 45 days after the law's enactment. Capitol officials will have up to two years to obtain a bust of Justice Marshall as a replacement.
The legislation is seen as a major victory for lawmakers who have tried for years to remove Confederate statues and other racist symbols from the Capitol. Since 2020, following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers almost 100 Confederate monuments have been removed.
Sponsored by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, he credited Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, with helping to pass the bill in the lower chamber.
“Taney’s ruling denied Black Americans citizenship, upheld slavery, and contributed, frankly, to the outbreak of the Civil War,” said Hoyer. “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,” he added.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill and now it awaits President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.
Born in Baltimore, Marshall led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, fighting against segregation arguing the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which held segregated schools to be unconstitutional. Marshall won 29 of the 32 civil rights cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
Appointed by President Lyndon B, Johnson in 1967, Marshall served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1967 until his retirement in 1991.
He passed away on January 23, 1993.