Dec 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Thurgood Marshall bust to replace author of racist Dred Scott ruling

Thurgood Marshall in his robe prior to being sworn in as the first Black member of the U. S. Supreme Court in 1967.

Thurgood Marshall being sworn in as the first Black member of the U. S. Supreme Court in October 1967. Photo: Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday for a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, to replace one of the chief justices who wrote the racist 1857 Dred Scott decision denying Black Americans citizenship.

Driving the news: The House passed legislation by voice vote that directs the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a marble bust from near the entrance to the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol of the former Chief Justice Roger Taney and replace it with one of Marshall.

A marble bust of Roger Taney, former Chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, on display in the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
A marble bust of Roger Taney, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, sculpted in 1877, on display in the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The big picture: The bill passed in the Senate last week and will be sent to President Biden’s desk to sign into law. A more expansive version that included the removal of other statues was approved by the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

What they're saying: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who with Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) introduced the legislation in 2020, praised civil rights icon Marshall on the House floor for conveying "that which drives America forward — inclusion, equality, perseverance and justice."

  • Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who reintroduced the bill last year, tweeted that while "it's important to know our past, we ought not place those who sought to divide our nation in a place of honor."
  • "I'm pleased a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, whose commitment to civil rights and the advancement of our most marginalized communities, will be placed in the Capitol to represent the principles of democracy & freedom we cherish today," he added.
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