Thank you for visiting our website

Featuring breaking political news and commentary on local, state, and national issues.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Move The Taney Bust

George Wenschhof
It is past time to remove the Roger Brooke Taney Bust from the grounds of city hall in Frederick, Maryland.
On Thursday, the mayor and board of aldermen will hold a public meeting and listed at the end of the agenda is a discussion on the removal of the Taney Bust.
“Who is Taney”, you ask?
A former lawyer in Frederick, he shared his law office with his brother-in-law Frances Scott Key who would become famous for his composition of “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Taney would also become famous for serving on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, it was his writing of the majority (7-2) opinion of the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford case that provides overwhelming weight for the removal of his Bust from the grounds of city hall.
Scott had traveled with his Master and lived in free territories before returning to a slave state.  After the death of his Master, he sued for his freedom beginning in 1847.
Ten years later, after the case had reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Taney would write in the majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.”
Addressing the language in the Declaration of Independence that says, “all men are created equal,” Taney said “it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration.”
Historians widely agree this decision contributed to the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 and the start of the Civil War in 1861.
This ill advised decision was repealed with the passage of the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution.
It should not be a surprise that many people, especially African Americans are not happy to see this Taney Bust adorn the grounds of city hall in Frederick, Maryland.
Located in a prominent location in front of the entrance to city hall, visitors must walk past the Bust when entering the building.
The Bust was placed in its current position when the building was the Frederick County court house.
The discussion to move the Taney Bust is a not new to city hall officials.  Back in 2007, local African American professional E. Kevin Lollar began an effort that included other community activists and lawyers Willie Mahone and Barry Kissin. On 1-14-2008, Frederick NAACP president Guy Djoken wrote this column published on my Blog
Much public discussion followed over 2 years with the resulting compromise being a plaque containing a short explanation placed next to the Taney Bust in 2009.
Perhaps, it was the recent tragedy that took place in a Charleston, South Carolina church and the subsequent action by the S. Carolina state legislature to finally remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of their capitol that led to this latest attempt to remove the Bust.
Regardless of the cause for the latest impetus to remove the Taney Bust from the grounds of city hall, it is past time to do so.
Sadly over the weekend, the Taney Bust was vandalized by pouring red paint over it.
Also, this past weekend, the public notice of a planned KKK rally in nearby Braddock Heights reminds us that racism continues to exist and must be countered when it attempts to rise.
Many thanks to the close to 100 people who attended, on a Saturday evening, a peaceful candle-lit counter-rally in Braddock Heights organized by Kerri Eiker.  There was no reported sighting of the white robed individuals who had advertised cross burnings. Credit should go to these concerned citizens who made it known that racism and hate is not acceptable in Frederick County.
For those who argue “You cannot change history”, moving the Taney Bust from the grounds of city hall or taking down a Confederate Flag flying on the grounds of a state capitol is not changing history.
Rather, it is showing respect to those who were negatively impacted by history that we as a nation should not be proud of.
The Confederate Flag battle or otherwise, can be viewed in museums across the country and today is easily seen online.
In The City of Frederick there remains a home where Taney spent some of his time and is now a museum.  Perhaps, these grounds are the appropriate location to place the Bust and its companion plaque. There is also a Historical Society where the Bust could be moved.
When I posted on my Facebook page I intended to write a column on this issue, it solicited many comments.
The comment placed by Vivian Campbell Combs “Move it to his house…or the library, or museum…where people can see it, if they want to…not because they have to” made the most sense.
One should not be required to pass by the Taney Bust when they visit city hall.
Today, city officials should not look for legal means to provide them cover from taking action to remove the Bust.  They should just take action to do so.
Interestingly, back around 1920, way before the rise of the Hitler regime in Germany, a road in the city was named Swastika Road.  In 1960, the mayor and board of The City of Frederick, after much debate about how the name of the road was not reflective of the horrific Hitler regime and how you cannot change history, changed the name of the road.
On Thursday, city officials should vote to move the Taney Bust.
Stay tuned.

No comments: