The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol, as well as a bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney from the the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol’s basement.
The House voted to remove the statue of Roger Taney, the #SCOTUS chief justice who wrote the majority opinion in the 1857 Dred Scott case that ruled people of African descent could never be American citizens https://t.co/Ou5cSFoPFS pic.twitter.com/Y2sVEuFJJk
— POLITICO (@politico) July 22, 2020
Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the legislation, which passed 305-113, but Republicans were split, with 72 voting in favor, 113 voting against, and one voting present.
“Today the House is taking a long overdue and historic step to ensure that individuals we honor in our Capitol represent our nation’s ideals, and not the worst in our history,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in a Wednesday press conference. “Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation, and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty.”
“It’s time to sweep away the last vestiges of Jim Crow and the dehumanizing of individuals because of the color of their skin that intruded for too long on the sacred spaces of our democracy,” Hoyer also said.
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) appealed to the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) when discussing the removal of the statues. “Let me just thank our leadership for the foresight to take up the legislation to remove these symbols that, to me, are hate in this particular period of time,” she said, adding, “And I think it’s so appropriate that we do this also in honor of Mr. Lewis … Because what he fought for every day is the exact opposite of these symbols.”
“Just imagine what it feels like, as an African American, to know that my ancestors built the Capitol,” Bass continued. “But yet there are monuments to the very people that enslaved my ancestors. And while statues do reflect an aspect of our history, statues are not just historical markers, but are tributes; a way to honor an individual, and these individuals do not deserve to be honored.”
The bill also slates a bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney for removal within 30 days, to eventually be replaced with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice of the Supreme Court, who served from 1967 to 1991.
Born in 1777, Roger Brooke Taney was the fifth chief justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by President Andrew Jackson in 1836. Taney is most famous as the author of the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, which claimed the rights conferred upon American citizens by the U.S. Constitution did not apply to black people. Taney appealed to legal precedent to argue that a “perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery.” The decision was met with fury in the North and is widely considered a contributing factor to the Civil War.
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