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Taney bust draws activists’ disgust
Question of the Day
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Some Frederick civil rights leaders are demanding the removal from City Hall of a bronze bust of 19th-century Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision affirming slavery.
“It’s quite offensive to have that there,” said E. Kevin Lollar, a lawyer who is also director of development for Frederick’s public housing authority. “I realize that it’s a part of history, but so were a lot of other things that we eventually let go of.”
Taney was born in Calvert County, but resided for two decades in Frederick with his wife, Anne Key, the sister of Francis Scott Key.
Mr. Lollar, along with the head of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the leader of United Latinos of Greater Frederick, took his protest to City Hall and local newspaper columnists, hoping to prompt public discussion about the bust. Mr. Lollar told the Baltimore Sun that he hopes the conversation will persuade the city’s mayor and aldermen to move the statue from the City Hall plaza, where it has stood for 75 years, to another location, such as a museum.
He is seeking to capitalize on the General Assembly’s passage this year of a resolution expressing “profound regret” for Maryland’s role in slavery.
In the 1857 majority opinion, Taney ruled that Dred Scott, a Missouri slave who had traveled with his master into free territory and wanted his freedom made permanent, should remain enslaved. Taney wrote that the Founding Fathers regarded blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.”
Black people were “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” Taney wrote.
Mayor William Jefferson Holtzinger acknowledged that Taney’s words still provoke ire, but he said he doesn’t want to get into a fight over the statue.
“It’s a huge battle. I’d rather spend our time and energy dealing with issues that are going to help people right now,” said Mr. Holtzinger, a Republican elected in 2005. “Moving or not moving that bust isn’t going to do a thing to help people.”
Alderman Alan E. Imhoff, a Republican, said he sees no reason to move the bust.
“What has passed has passed, and it’s all part of the fabric of our American life,” he said.
But Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak, a Democrat, said that if the bust is an abomination to some, it must go. She forecast a heated public debate. “Good ol’ boys want to leave things where they are,” she said. “Things have changed everywhere, and you should change with them.”
Blacks account for about 15 percent of Frederick’s 59,000 residents, up from 13 percent in 1990, and Hispanics account for about 5 percent, more than double their 1990 presence, according to U.S. Census estimates.
Statues of Taney also stand in front of the State House in Annapolis and in the Mount Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore.
State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse said public interest in removing the State House statue, placed there in 1872, has come up periodically. But rather than remove it, officials opted in the 1990s for balance, placing a statue of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall nearby.
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