He Denied Blacks Citizenship. Now a City Is Deciding His Statue’s Fate.

Breaking News
tags: racism, Supreme Court, Black History, Dred Scott, Roger Brooke Taney



In 1801, Roger Brooke Taney, the politically minded son of a Maryland tobacco planter, settled here to practice law. He married the sister of Francis Scott Key, won election to the State Senate and worked his way to Washington, where he landed a dream job: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Taney (pronounced TAW-knee) is buried in a graveyard here; the house he owned is now a museum; and for 85 years, his bronze bust, with stern eyes and aquiline nose, has gazed out on the courtyard of what is now City Hall. For about 40 of those years, the sight of that bust has made Willie Mahone, a local lawyer, want to retch.

As an African-American who attended segregated Alabama schools, Mr. Mahone, 62, is well aware of how Taney earned an enduring, if dubious, place in American history: He wrote the notorious 1857 Dred Scottruling denying citizenship to blacks, noting that the Constitution’s framers considered them “beings of an inferior order.”




comments powered by Disqus