Press Release
For Immediate Release: 
June 29, 2021
Contact Info: 
Margaret Mulkerrin 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – This afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor in support of H.R. 3005, legislation he sponsored to remove the bust of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from the U.S. Capitol building and replace it with a bust of Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. The legislation would also remove from public display in the U.S. Capitol statues or busts that are symbols of slavery and segregation, including statues and busts of those who served voluntarily in the Confederate States of America. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video:
 
Click here to watch the video.
 
"Madam Speaker, when I brought this bill to the Floor just about a year ago, I referred to our Capitol building as a ‘sacred space’ for democracy. The intervening months have shown us in ways we could not have imagined then, just how true that statement is. We watched our temple of democracy defiled by a violent insurrection. For many of us here, that was a watershed moment, seeing such evils pervade the halls of the American Capitol.

“However, for African Americans who have been serving here, working here, and visiting here for many decades, that sense of defilement of this ‘sacred space’ is all too familiar. Because when they see individuals like John Calhoun, Charles Aycock, and James Paul Clarke celebrated in stone and bronze in these halls, they are reminded that, for so much of our history, the leaders and leading institutions of our government and our country did not view them as equal or, at times, even human. When they enter the solemn old Supreme Court Chamber and stare into the cold marble eyes of Roger Brooke Taney, they are reminded that, at one time, the highest court in our land declared that Black lives did not matter.

“In the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, Taney quoted the Declaration of Independence, which says: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ Beneath those lines, he wrote: ‘The general words above quoted would seem to embrace the whole human family, and if they were used in a similar instrument at this day would be so understood. But…the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration.’

"Taney’s words were used by the Confederacy during the Civil War to justify the creation of a regime built to sustain the enslavement of African Americans in perpetuity, with no possibility of recognizing their humanity. And they have been used ever since by bigots and white supremacists to justify segregation, racial violence, and discrimination. We must not allow the author of those words to hold a place of honor in our Capitol.

“That’s why I introduced this legislation, along with Rep. Barbara Lee, Whip Jim Clyburn, Rep. Karen Bass, Chairwoman Joyce Beatty, Chairman Bennie Thompson, and Rep. G. K. Butterfield. Because this building – this sacred space, this temple of democracy – has been defiled for too long. It is time to remove those symbols of slavery, segregation, and sedition from these halls.

“Roger Brooke Taney was from my state of Maryland. In our state capital of Annapolis, we removed the statue of Chief Justice Taney that had stood for many, many years. That decision was long overdue, and it reflects our growth as a state as we have confronted the most difficult parts of our history.

“America is confronting its history today, and that is a good thing. Those who say we shouldn’t teach about slavery or that we should sweep it under the rug – or that we should skip over the lines in our Constitution that reference it – do a disservice to our understanding of America’s greatness. We are great because we face our history and seek to learn from it. We are great because we approach our past with humility and openness. And we are great because we continue to perfect our democracy through more inclusion, more tolerance, more justice, and more equality.

“That’s why Democrats and Republicans came together earlier this month to make Juneteenth a national holiday. And it’s why I believe we can take this important step together today. So, Madam Speaker, I ask the House once again to join me in passing this legislation to remove these statues and the bust of Chief Justice Taney from the Capitol. Not because we want to erase history but because we are determined to confront it.

“And, as a Marylander proud of the steps we have taken in Annapolis, I believe that Justice Thurgood Marshall would be a far better ambassador for the greatness of American democracy and for our state of Maryland than Roger Brooke Taney. Where Roger Brooke Taney represents the worst of American injustice and racism, Thurgood Marshall represents the best of American justice and equality.

“I hope my colleagues will join me in taking this important step forward to sanctify this temple of democracy anew – and to make it clear not only that Black Lives Matter but that our democracy belongs to every American equally.”