ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday that he wants to remove from the State House grounds a statue of Roger B. Taney, a U.S. Supreme Court justice and slavery defender who penned in the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that black people cannot be U.S. citizens.
“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do.”
The decision, which comes after the deadly rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville over the weekend, is a reversal for Hogan. Last year, the governor said he had “no interest” in removing Taney’s statue, and he described calls for the removal of statues and other Confederate monuments as “political correctness run amok.”
Hogan said Tuesday that he will ask the State House Trust to take immediate action to remove the statue.
The governor chairs the four-member State House Trust board, which controls the grounds of the capitol complex. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Maryland Historical Trust Chair Charles L. Edson make up the rest of the board.
On Monday, Busch said in a Facebook post that “the time has come for Taney to come down.” Miller and Edson have indicated that if Hogan wants to remove the statue, they will agree.
Communities across the region and country are debating whether to remove from other public spaces the names and statues of historical figures who represent a legacy of slavery and racism.
On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) announced plans to remove four Confederate statues in that city. And, in the District on Tuesday, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) sent a letter to the National Park Service asking that it “do everything in its power to permanently remove the Albert Pike Statue,” which is located in Judiciary Square. Pike, a lawyer and a poet who was active in the Masonic movement, was a Confederate brigadier general.
Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said that the governor was “disgusted” by what happened in Charlottesville and that “he rightly concluded that these memorials have become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots and he believes that their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”
Several Maryland state lawmakers, including Busch, and Ben Jealous, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on Monday pressed Hogan to remove the statue.
Jealous, a former NAACP president, said Hogan took action only to improve his standing for the 2018 election.
“The only difference between now and then is Governor Hogan is running for reelection,” he said. “Real leadership doesn’t tie our values to the political calendar. As Governor, Larry Hogan has a responsibility to show our children that doing what’s right should always matter more than political convenience.”
There have been several unsuccessful efforts in the state legislature to remove the Taney statue.
Former state delegate Aisha N. Braveboy said that the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, an association of black lawyers from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, lobbied last year for a bill but that no action was taken.
“It’s a great feeling to know that our leaders are recognizing that having a symbol of white supremacy at a place of honor, on our State House grounds, is unacceptable,” Braveboy said. “Taney has no place at our State House.”
Hogan, who called Maryland a “state of middle temperament,” received some backlash on social media.
Debby Mullins wrote on Hogan’s Facebook page that she appreciated his “fortitude and good sense” when he opposed the removal of the monuments last year. With Tuesday’s decision, she said: “You have lost my vote.”
Chasse said the State House Trust board could vote on the removal of the Taney statue in the coming days or weeks.
In the District, Grosso’s letter to the National Park Service, which also was signed by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), council members Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), is considered the first step toward removing the Pike statue. Grosso plans to introduce a resolution when the D.C. Council reconvenes next month.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t remember or study history, but we don’t need a whole statue to someone who doesn’t represent the values of the District,” Grosso said.
Josh Hicks and Rachel Chason contributed to this report.