Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan decided to remove the statue that stands outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice infamous for the majority opinion he wrote in the Dred Scott decision.
“While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “With that in mind, 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."
The move comes as jurisdictions across the country decided to remove statues honoring Confederate generals and politicians after an alt-right protest in Charlottesville, Va. turned violent. One of the counter-protesters, Heather Heyer, died after being struck by a car that police said was driven by Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr, who was charged with second-degree murder.
In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh removed statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Taney and one honoring the women of the Confederate States of America in the early hours of the morning. Like the statue removals in Baltimore, a crew in Annapolis removed the statue during the early morning to avoid any type of protest.
The alt-right “Unite the Right” rally was sparked by the Charlottesville City Council decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. Alt-right, white nationalist, neoNazi and Ku Klux Klan members descended on Charlottesville to rally against the statue’s removal.
“It’s not if we are destroying the statue. We're not melting it down,” said Del. Kumar Barve (D- 17).
Barve said he supported the governor’s decision to move the statue, and said he supports moving the statue to private land if a private citizen is willing to pay for the move. Barve also suggested changing the lyrics to its state song “Maryland, My Maryland,” which insinuates that President Abraham Lincoln was a despot.
While Taney was not a Confederate, as he remained loyal to the Union until his death in 1864, his legacy is that of a pro-slavery justice who in his majority opinion of Dred Scott v. Stanford, said the U.S. government did not have the right to prohibit slavery in U.S. territories and that Dred Scott, a slave, could by definition not be a citizen because of his African heritage.
The statue was placed outside the statehouse in 1872 to honor Maryland’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Montgomery County is not immune from its own Confederate statue controversy. Last month, the County moved the statue that stood next to the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville and commemorated Confederate veterans of the Civil War. Like the other statue removals, the Rockville statue was moved in the early hours of the morning to avoid protests, County Executive Ike Leggett said. The statue is now located on private land at White’s Ferry in Poolesville.
“When I decided to move it, I was concerned people would try to use it as rally call to go out and create mischief,” Leggett said.