Frederick Douglass should have a new prominent statue at the Maryland State House to commemorate his extraordinary life, his fight against racism in America, and to celebrate his 200th birthday in 2018.

Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, wrote the 1857 Dred Scott Decision declaring that African Americans have no Constitutional rights. His statue at the front door of the Maryland State House remains an insult to all.

The proposed monument relocates the Roger B. Taney statue to face a new standing statue of Frederick Douglass. Both statues would be on an educational terrace that explains their opposite views of the US Constitution, and the nature of racism before and after the Civil War. The educational terrace and two statues create an open area for people to stand between the two statues, and see the beauty of the State House front door, porch and dome. From a preservation point of view, the Taney Statue is preserved and retained without modification. The Taney statue becomes an indispensable part of a larger more significant monument that with the Douglass statue can tell the story of the Constitutional crisis of the Civil War and racism in America.

The new standing statue of Frederic Douglass would be the same scale as Taney, about twice life size. There is no significant monument to Douglass at the Maryland State House—clearly one of Maryland’s most important native sons. He should be depicted at about forty years of age, the time of the Dred Scott Decision which he publicly debated and denounced.

video_preview

Roger Taney Statue: What would Frederick Douglass Do?

The bronze statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was funded by the Maryland State legislature in 1867, only two short years after the Civil War. During the funding debate, pronouncements were made that the State of Maryland was erecting the statue to declare that Taney’s Dred Scott Decision was “just, righteous and right”. The Confederate sympathizing Democrat Legislature placed the statue at the front door of the State House to declare that regardless of the results of the Civil War, white dominance would not be interrupted.


Taney was disgraced immediately when he wrote the 1857 infamous Dred Scott Decision. In it he declared that blacks were inferior and had no constitutional rights which any white man was obligated to honor. The Dred Scott Decision was roundly denounced not just for the overt racism, but also because Taney’s judicial framework was heavily flawed. After his death in 1864, Congress refused to commission his official portrait. Today, the Dred Scott Decision is still considered the worst judicial finding of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Current proposals before the Maryland Legislature call for the removal or destruction of the statue. This is an understandable counteraction to the place of honor the Taney statue has held which blatantly endorses racism.

We believe that there is a better way: keep the Taney statue and use it to teach. Arrange the Taney statue with a new statue of Frederick Douglass. Douglass and Taney were both from Maryland, they shared the national stage together at the same time, on opposite sides of the Civil War. The new statue of Douglass should have him standing with a posture and look that is willful, positive and determined. His statue would stand face to face with the Taney statue as a symbol of the triumph of progressive ideals. Let us depict Douglass as he lived his life: he stood up against Taney, and voiced his powerful opposition to Taney’s corrupt view of the Constitution and humanity.

What would Frederick Douglass do today with the statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney at the Maryland State House? He would not remove it to a dark corner. He would not destroy it. He would stand before it and shine a bright light on the blatant racism it has endorsed for the last 150 years.

Let’s build this new monument now to honor Douglass on his 200th birthday, to celebrate how he stood up to the privileged racism of Taney, show that the placement of the Taney statue in 1872 was an act of State sponsored racist hatred and fear. Let’s turn the Taney statue into a monument that explains how the pernicious tentacles of racism still hold our society hostage to bitterness and hate. Let’s make the Taney statue sit on his privileged seat of comfort until a new generation does not know what racism is. Then, and only then, his statue can be moved off to a dark corner and the obscurity it so richly deserves.

LOAD MORE

Petition Signers

jessica giovachino