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Congress approves removing statue of Supreme Court chief justice who wrote Dred Scott decision

The legislation, which now heads to Biden's desk, directs that Roger Taney's statue be replaced by a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first Black justice.
Roger Taney
A marble bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol.J. Scott Applewhite / AP file

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would remove from public display at the U.S. Capitol a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which defended slavery and denied the citizenship of Black Americans.

The legislation, which the House passed by voice vote, declares that Taney's authorship of the decision "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 states.

Roger B. Taney.
Roger B. Taney (1777-1864), chief justice of the Supreme Court. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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.

The Senate passed the bill last week by unanimous consent. It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. David Trone, both D-Md., introduced the legislation in March 2020. The House overwhelmingly passed it a few months later in a 305-113 vote, but it did not advance in the Senate.

A statue of Taney, who lived in Maryland, was removed from Maryland's State House grounds in 2017.

Congress in recent years has taken similar action to remove other statues from the Civil War era.

In 2020, a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the Capitol, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowing at the time to continue ridding the Capitol of “homages to hate” after she ordered the removal of four portraits of Confederate House speakers from the complex.