BALTIMORE (AP) — The name of a former U.S. Supreme Court chief justice who had ruled before the Civil War that free Black people and enslaved persons were not U.S. citizens is being removed from a historic warship.
Roger B. Taney’s name has been taken off the retired warship that survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and is currently being overseen by Baltimore’s Living Classrooms Foundation, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.
Taney delivered the majority opinion in the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford case, which also asserted that enslaved Black people had no pathway to citizenship and no rights.
Taney, who was born in Maryland and practiced law there, rose to become the nation’s fifth chief justice. Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were slaves who sued for their freedom after they were taken from the slave state of Missouri into territory where slavery had been prohibited by the Missouri Compromise.
The former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney, a national historic landmark and the last surviving warship from the Pearl Harbor attack, serves as a museum for students and the general public focused on the men and women who served aboard.
James Piper Bond, president and CEO of Living Classrooms Foundation, said in a statement Wednesday that the foundation was inspired to make the change, calling the court ruling involving Taney “an abomination” and “great injustice” toward African Americans.
“The national historic landmark we are charged with stewarding should be reflective of our values of equality and opportunity for all,” Bond said. “We are not erasing history. Nor is it our intention to minimize the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served with honor aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney. Our intention is to learn from history and celebrate the legacy of the ship and those who served aboard.”
The decision was approved of by Living Classrooms Foundation’s board of trustees and their Historic Ships in Baltimore advisory board. The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the change by the foundation in coordination with the city of Baltimore, a spokesperson confirmed.
U.S. Rep Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican congressman who serves the First District, said in a statement that the removal of the name goes against the foundation’s educational mission.
“Attempts to re-write shortcomings in our history, instead of using them to educate future generations, is a very bad idea – especially for a museum whose whole stated purpose is history,” the statement said.
At least for now, the ship will be referred to by its hull identification WHEC 37, which stands for High Endurance Cutter, according to the foundation. The Taney name already has been removed from the ship’s stern.
Statues of Taney outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis and in Baltimore were removed in 2017, following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that summer and the subsequent calls to remove Confederate-era memorials around the country.