Maryland state officials have removed a monument honoring Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that defended slavery. The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, prompted the decision to uproot the statue.
On Aug. 18, officials removed a statue of Taney, a Maryland native, from the Maryland State House grounds in Annapolis, The Washington Post reports. The operation was carried out after midnight, when the majority of residents were asleep. The monument had stood since 1872.
"We can't wipe out all of our history, nor should we try to," GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said in an Aug. 17 statement before the statue's removal. "But when it reaches the point where some of these symbols, whether they have historical significance or not, when they become a focal point for racism and violence, then it's time to do something about it."
In 1857, Taney wrote the Dred Scott decision that upheld the institution of slavery, asserting that blacks were not U.S. citizens and therefore were not protected by the Constitution. The chief justice wrote that blacks were racially inferior, according to The Atlantic.
Taney wrote that granting blacks citizenship would be "an abuse of terms not calculated to exalt the character of the American citizen in the eyes of other nations," according to The Atlantic.
Hogan had previously resisted activist calls to remove Taney's monument, but changed his mind following the white nationalist rally that rocked Charlottesville.
On Aug. 11, white supremacists gathered at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. On Aug. 12, the white nationalists staged an alt-right rally in the college town. The tense rally turned deadly when alt-right member James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly plowed his vehicle through a crowd of anti-racist counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
On Aug. 15, Hogan announced that he would move to have the Taney statue removed.
"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," Hogan said in a statement, according WTTG.
Later that day, the Maryland State House Trust board voted to uproot the Taney monument. Democratic State Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. protested the decision, asserting that Taney had a more complicated history on race and that his expansive career in the U.S. government made him an important figure for the state.
Meanwhile, Maryland State House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, backed Hogan's decision, stating, "One hundred and fifty two years after the end of the Civil War, we don't need a symbol on the front of the Maryland State House that continues to divide people."
Several Annapolis residents who watched the statue removal said they approved the decision. One African American resident, who had just turned 59 that day, said Taney's removal "felt like a birthday treat."
"It's just a bad statue overall," added another onlooker. "We deserve to celebrate the heroes of Maryland, not the villains of history."
Taney's statue was transferred to an undisclosed location. On Aug. 16, Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore had another statue of Taney removed from her city grounds, along with three other Confederate monuments.
Sources: The Atlantic, WTTG, The Washington Post (2) / Featured Image: Thisisbossi/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Nate Pesce/Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office/Flickr, Ron Cogswell/Flickr