March 28, 2017Politics & Opinion
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Frederick Douglass And Roger B. Taney
February 8, 2017
Over the last several years, much debate has surrounded the Roger B. Taney statue on the grounds of the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
Roger B. Taney, a native Marylander, served as a state delegate, state senator, United States Secretary of the Treasury, attorney general of the United States, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he served for nearly three decades with distinction. However, he is most remembered for delivering the majority 7-2 opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, among other things, that African-Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the Constitution was drafted, could not be considered citizens of the United States. The decision helped further divide our nation as it teetered on the brink of Civil War.
Opponents of the Taney statue argue it is a monument to racism and should be removed so as to not glorify the institution of slavery. Supporters argue that removing the statue would ignore Taney’s undeniable impact on our nation’s history. Without Dred Scott, there may never have been a Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, and Emancipation Proclamation, or 14th and 15th amendments. Slavery might have dragged on for decades. History moves in strange ways.
I believe we must remember our nation’s history so that we may learn from it. However, we also must allow monuments like these to demonstrate the complete historical perspective. History did not end with Justice Taney’s reprehensible decision. In fact, the Dred Scott decision helped ignite outrage around the country, fueling the rise of Abraham Lincoln and other anti-slavery voices, especially that of Frederick Douglass. While we cannot ignore Taney’s impact, we must counter it with the powerful force of change his actions helped create.
That is why I support the Frederick Douglass and Roger B. Taney Monument proposal that has been proffered by The Friends of Frederick Douglass and Roger B. Taney. The proposal would relocate the Roger B. Taney statue to face a new standing statue of Frederick Douglass, who was also a native Marylander. Both statues would be on an educational terrace that explains their respective views of the U.S. Constitution and the nature of racism before and after the Civil War. The educational terrace and two statues would create an open area for people to stand between the two statues, as they stare at each other, eyeball to eyeball.
I believe this would both recognize the enormous impact Justice Taney had on the course of our nation’s history, while at the same time honoring the legacy of our state’s most important African-American leader with historical ties to Anne Arundel County. The addition of a statue of Fredrick Douglass to our state capital grounds would serve as a powerful monument to one of our nation’s most important African-American political leaders.
I can think of no more of fitting tribute to Black History Month than having our state erect a statue of one of our nation’s most influential civil rights leaders. I urge the General Assembly and the Maryland Historical Trust to consider this proposal during the upcoming legislative session.