United States

House Votes to Remove Confederate Statues, Bust of Former Chief Justice Roger Taney From Capitol

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  • The measure overwhelmingly passed in a 285-120 vote.
  • The legislation requires states to remove and replace any statues or busts that honor those who voluntarily served in the Confederacy from public display in the Capitol. 
  • It also incorporates Congresswoman Barbara Lee's Confederate Monument Removal Act, which orders the removal of statues that symbolize "slavery, sedition, and segregation."

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would remove Confederate statues and the bust of Roger Taney, a former chief justice known for an infamous pro-slavery ruling, from the U.S. Capitol. 

The measure overwhelmingly passed in a 285-120 vote.

The House approved the legislation last year, but it failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. It is unclear if it has enough GOP support now to pass in the Democratic-held Senate.

When representatives reintroduced the bill last month, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., pointed to the Confederate flags and other hate symbols displayed by a pro-Trump mob during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a reason to replace the statues.

"On January 6th, we experienced the divisiveness of Confederate battle flags being flown inside the U.S. Capitol. Yet there are still vestiges that remain in this sacred building that glorify people and a movement that embraced that flag and sought to divide and destroy our great country," Clyburn said in a statement. 

"This legislation will remove these commemorations from places of honor and demonstrate that as Americans we do not celebrate those who seek to divide us."  

The legislation requires states to remove and replace any statues or busts that honor those who voluntarily served in the Confederacy from public display in the Capitol. 

Lawmakers put a particular emphasis on removing Taney's bust, noting that he authored the infamous "Dred Scott v. Sanford" ruling that declared that Black Americans could not be U.S. citizens. The bust will be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice on the high court. 

"The Dred Scott decision was a blot on our history and represents the tragic legacy of slavery and racism that should not be celebrated in our country … It is fitting that we honor Justice Thurgood Marshall instead, a fighter for justice and inclusion, who sought to advance the civil rights movement," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a statement. 

Other prominent statues and busts that would be removed include a statue of Jefferson Davis, who served as the president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, and Alexander Stephens, who served as the vice president to Davis. 

In addition to ridding the Capitol of Confederate statues and busts, the legislation also incorporates the Confederate Monument Removal Act led by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. It orders the removal of statues that symbolize "slavery, sedition, and segregation," including statues of John C. Calhoun, Charles Brantley Aycock, and James Paul Clarke, Democrats said in releasing the bill. 

The legislation also requires the architect of the Capitol to identify other statues or busts that honor the Confederacy, which will be removed and returned to the states that originally sent them. 

The passage of the legislation comes after nationwide protests over racial justice last year, prompted by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin. Last week, Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. 

The efforts to remove Confederate monuments in the U.S. intensified after Floyd's death, with nearly 170 confederate statues reportedly removed in 2020 alone, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

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