[Archive, Ruth Bader Ginsburg]: The true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum, and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will come back.
[music: mix with lyrics “back, back, it will come back”]
Julia Longoria: This is More Perfect, I’m Julia Longoria. Before we started working on this season, we asked you, our listeners, to share your questions, your concerns, your general thoughts about the Court today. And going through the many lovely voice notes we got from you, I stumbled upon this one from a teacher…
Carly Howie: Hi guys, my name is Carly Howie. I teach American history to high schoolers…
Julia Longoria: Talking about how she explains the Court to her students through a metaphor we mentioned in a past season…
Carly Howie: And I specifically referenced the idea of the American pendulum, and how you know we're kind of swinging back and forth where you know different, different groups with different ideas hold power at different times and we can look back and say…
Julia Longoria: How today’s Court is on one of those swings it takes from time to time
Carly Howie: And I ended this school year reinforcing that idea of the pendulum and you know we will eventually swing in a more, you know, liberal direction.
Julia Longoria: And how difficult it can feel when you’re on the other side, waiting for the pendulum to swing back.
[OYEZ OYEZ OYEZ]
Julia Longoria: So today, we’re going to replay an old episode of More Perfect, fun fact, it’s the very first one I ever reported. When we looked back at a time when the Court took a swing in a very dark direction. When the Chief Justice wrote what might just be the most horrible decision the Court has ever made.
Richard Josey: And at that point of time at the highest Court of the land to make that decision, that was putting a period on sort of this overarching battle between the North and the South, the for-slavery, and the abolitionist. And so when this happens, now you start seeing civil war popping off.
Julia Longoria: And how two families caught in the crosshairs of the decision came together 160 years after the case was decided.
[OYEZ: God save the United States and this honorable Court.]
Julia Longoria: I’m Julia Longoria, and this is More Perfect. And today, we are taking a trip back in time to an earlier era of More Perfect. I had only recently been hired onto the show when this guy…
Jad Abumrad: Hey, I’m Jad Abumrad.
Julia Longoria: Sent me on my very first reporting trip. Snow freshly laid on the ground. To dig into the story behind one of the most infamous decisions in Supreme Court history: Dred Scott v. Sandford.
[Archive, Clip]: This is a case that split the United States in two—
[music with lyrics “We the people”]
Jad Abumrad: So the case in question is the Dred Scott case. Which if you ask people…
Interviewer: I was wondering if you've ever heard of the Dred Scott court case?
Speaker 1: The Dred Scott-- Sounds familiar.
Jad Abumrad: Doesn't go well.
Soren Shade: Nothing coming up?
Speaker 2: Man, I don't know my high school history teacher would be really mad at me right now. I don't know.
Speaker 3: I don't remember anything about it.
Soren Shade: You remember nothing?
Jad Abumrad: We get a lot of people who are like, was that like a civil rights thing?
Speaker 2: Probably something to do with segregation.
Julia Longoria: You're, you’re warm.
Speaker 2: I'm warm?
Jad Abumrad: Or was it Obama?
Soren Shade: Like the name has some familiarity, yes?
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 4: Dred, what does that mean?
Julia Longoria: Dred Scott. It's a name.
Speaker 4: I don't know, this is the first time I heard of him.
[music with lyrics “United States of America”]
Elie Mystal: So what happens a lot of times is that people don't actually understand why they're free. So, Dred Scott is one of those fundamental decisions that lays the groundwork for the reasons why we can live in a multicultural society.
Julia Longoria: This is Elie Mystal, More Perfect’s legal editor back then.
Elie Mystal: But to really understand the case, you've got to go to a place called Fort Snelling. It's a small Army base, about 15 minutes north of the Minneapolis airport.
Julia Longoria: Snow freshly laid on the ground.
Jad Abumrad: And our producer Julia Longoria
Elie Mystal: Took a trip there.
Richard Josey: Right over here…
Julia Longoria: And this guy…
Richard Josey: I'm Richard Josey, manager of programs here at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Jad Abumrad: Gave her a tour.
Julia Longoria: Yep, so what are we walking into now?
Richard: So what you’re getting ready to see right now is the space that we think, you know, is probably where Dred and Harriet Scott, you know, where they lived.
Jad Abumrad: Before we go in, can you just sort of set up when in time are we? What's happening?
Julia Longoria: This is the 1830s.
Elie Mystal: We're 30 years out from the Civil War.
Jad Abumrad: Okay.
Julia Longoria: By the 1830s, about half the states in the Union have slavery, about half don't. So it's this question that's kind of still unanswered, like, should we be a free nation, or should we be a slave nation?
Elie Mystal: So there's a real tension here, um, and there is a real understanding here that this might not work.
Julia Longoria: And just as we're about to reach this breaking point, an Army doctor named John Emerson…
Elie Mystal: A white guy.
Julia Longoria: Definitely a white guy, slave owner, steps into free territory and arrives here to this Army base on a hill, and he brings with him his one slave, Dred Scott.
Richard Josey: Um, and now we're actually inside the fortress if you will, and you know, all of the stone, all of the windows, it's kind of like whenever I come here I have this kind of cold feeling, even when it's hot outside.
Julia Longoria: He walks us up to the back of this one squat building on the far end of the base.
Richard Josey: [sigh]
Julia Longoria: Can you describe the room?
Richard Josey: I think we're probably looking at a maybe seven-and-a-half-foot ceiling, wood grain floor, wood clapboard floor with stone walls.
Julia Longoria: It's a tiny room; little bigger than a king bed. There's a fireplace, little table, some Redwood cabinets.
Richard Josey: This is the, this is a home. This is a kitchen, this is a laundry place. This is, you know, your one-stop-shop.
Julia Longoria: And the reason this room is so important is because Dred Scott living in this room, for the first time in his life, he got a taste of what it might be like to be free. I mean obviously, he was still a slave but Dr. Emerson would leave the fort for months at a time and have him work for other people. He had a degree of autonomy.
Julia Longoria: And Harriet and Dred met here, right?
Richard Josey: Yep.
Julia Longoria: When he was here, he met a girl.
Richard Josey: 1836, seven, yeah, they met here.
Julia Longoria: Richard Josey likes to stand here and imagine just how that might have went down.
Richard Josey: I can imagine you know, Harriet, you know, having been here and Dred being over by the store and then having a conversation with one of the other Black guys that was here. And I can imagine him saying, "Did you see the new girl that's here?" Then she comes walking by. "Jim, who is that? I'm going to make her mine." Like I can imagine him saying that.
Julia Longoria: Over the next few years, Dred and Harriet had two kids, both of them girls.
Richard Josey: And I personally, I think that that what happened was children seemed to change everything.
Julia Longoria: So what ends up happening is that Dr. Emerson moves Dred Scott and his family back to Missouri. They're back in a slave state. And Dr. Emerson ends up passing away. And it seems like his wife is gonna maybe sell Dred Scott's daughters. So what Dred and Harriet Scott end up deciding to do, the whole reason we know Dred Scott's name, is that they decide to sue for their own freedom.
Elie Mystal: That's a lawsuit that Dred Scott had every right to believe that he would win. There was a doctrine called, "Once free, always free." That the minute your foot landed in the snow of the north, the minute that you and your owner walked into free territory, you were free and you could not be returned to a state of bondage.
Julia Longoria: This was a well-known legal argument. And in fact, Dred Scott won at a lower court. So it goes all the way up to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court says, "No. You're still property." And the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger Taney…
Elie Mystal: Very famously, he says, "The Black man has no rights that the white man is bound to respect." Taney, in an amazingly broad decision, not only slams the door on Dred Scott's freedom, he slams the door on the potential for any African-American, free or not free, to ever have full citizenship in this country.
Richard Josey: And at that point of time at the highest Court of the land to make that decision, that was putting a period on sort of this overarching battle between the North and the South, the for-slavery, and the abolitionist. And so, when this happens, now you start seeing civil war popping on.
[music with gunshots]
Jad Abumrad: Now, as far as Dred Scott the case is concerned, speaking legally, the 13th and 14th Amendments did come along and overturn it.
Julia Longoria: But like that line, like "The Black man has no rights that a white man is bound to respect," like you can't overturn that line.
Jad Abumrad: And these days, you know, as the pendulum swings, and we see a rise in…
[chanting “Black Lives Matter”]
Jad Abumrad: blatant, overt white nationalism,
[Archive, Male Newscaster]: There's more than three dozen people injured.
Jad Abumrad: That line
[Archive, Crowd]: Whose streets? Our streets!
Jad Abumrad: still hovers above us all. But suppose you're a direct descendant of that case, of that history. Suppose your name is Scott but your last name is Taney, what do you do with that? Particularly now, like what do you do with that history? Do you ignore it? Is it not your problem, or do you address it? And if you do, how?
Julia Longoria: Coming up after the break, we walk into a hotel lobby in St. Louis and get an answer we just did not expect.
Julia Longoria: From WNYC Studios, this is More Perfect, I’m Julia Longoria. Back to the first story I ever reported for More Perfect, here’s our old host Jad Abumrad.
Jad Abumrad: Ok, now, we come to the reunion. As she was reporting the story producer, Julia Longoria, was doing a little googling, located a couple of Scott / Taney descendants and then found out that they were actually planning to meet up to have this kind of historic summit, which was like, we thought was bananas. So she went, and it was bananas. And as soon as she came back, she sat down in the studio and told Elie Mystal and I all about it.
Julia Longoria: Um, so where to start?
[background noise of reunion]
Julia Longoria: So I walked into this Hilton Frontenac Hotel in St. Louis. You know, your classic hotel atrium with like a very weird carpet pattern. I walked in and it's like
Lynne Jackson: Hello, darling. How are you?
Julia Longoria: It's almost like a conference.
Lynne Jackson: Oh, your Julia.
Julia Longoria: And I'm greeted by the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott.
Jad Abumrad: Wow.
Lynne Jackson: And uh, yeah. It's just amazing. I mean literally, this is our inaugural Sons and Daughters of Reconciliation Event.
Julia Longoria: Name's Lynne Jackson. She's the main organizer.
Lynne Jackson: This was always a dream that I had about 12 years ago that, "If I could meet other descendants, wouldn't that be cool?"
Julia Longoria: Then she immediately tells me…
Lynne Jackson: I'm a networker.
Julia Longoria: I'm a networker. I'm going to connect you with everyone here. [laughter]
Lynne Jackson: That's what I like doing. And this is the Blow family right here.
Julia Longoria: And immediately, she introduces me to these three people.
Lynne Jackson: What's your name?
Mimi Lebourgeois: Mimi Lebourgeois.
John Lebourgeois: John Lebourgeois.
Ashton Lebourgeois: I'm Ashton Lebourgeois.
Julia Longoria: Who are descendants of the Blow family. The first family who owned her great-great-grandpa.
Elie Mystal: Wow.
Lynne Jackson: Here's some more fun guests. Hello, guys. Come on in.
Julia Longoria: She also introduced me to the great-great-great-
Male: I'm one of the great-great-
Shannon LaNier: Six great-grandson-
Male: of Thomas Jefferson.
Julia Longoria: -grandson of Thomas Jefferson. I met--
Julia Longoria: What's your name?
Bertram Hayes-Davis: I'm Bertram Hayes-Davis.
Julia Longoria: A descendant of Jefferson Davis. You know, the guy who led the Confederacy against the Union in the Civil War. And everybody's hugging, laughing. It was wild.
Elie Mystal: Almost like a, it sounds almost like a meeting of the utopian society.
Julia Longoria: [laughs] Yes, exactly. And the whole idea, everyone kind of wanted…
Charlie Taney: Reconciliation.
Bertram Hayes-Davis: Reconciliation.
Julia Longoria: Reconciliation. That was the word of the day. Reconciliation. Reconciliation.
Shannon LaNier: Reconciliation. I think a lot of the country needs that now, you know. I think a lot of the people here…
Julia Longoria: And so I'm wandering around and greeting these people, like going up shaking hands with random people. And then I meet this one guy.
Lynne Jackson: Here's my cousin, Dred Scott Madison.
Julia Longoria: Lynn introduced us.
Dred Scott Madison: Yes. Dred Madison. I'm the great-great-grandson of Dred and Harriet Scott.
Julia Longoria: And I look in his eyes. And I was like, "Holy shit. Those are Dred Scott's eyes." I mean there's really only one picture of Dred Scott that exists, and it's from around 1857. He's wearing a suit, staring straight at the camera. And his eyes are like almost glassy and his pupils are really big and it's just striking. I felt like I was looking right into those same eyes.
Julia Longoria: And have you always known that you're related to Dred Scott? I imagine, yes?
Dred Scott Madison: Yes.
Julia Longoria: What, what's your relationship to that history? What do you, when you think about it, what do you, what do you feel?
Dred Scott Madison: I have mixed feelings. Based on what Chief Justice Taney said, and the decision they made that you're subhuman species with no rights a white man is bound to respect.
Lynne Jackson: Blacks have no rights that white men are bound to respect?
Dred Scott Madison: That still resonates today in my opinion. What really hit me the hardest and it's hard for me to even think about this cause it just bothers me, was Trayvon Martin.
[Archive, Male Newscaster]: Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, was shot down by a white neighborhood watchman who claimed self-defense.
Dred Scott Madison: This kid was walking home from a store. Wasn’t bothering anyone, he wasn't breaking any laws. Someone decided to follow him, pull-up on him, and ended up murdering him. That guy parked his car, got out of his car, invaded this young man's space, and murdered him and used the Stand Your Ground Law. And that's a perfect example of, "Your ground is yours until I decide it's not."
Julia Longoria: I meet Dred just as he is about to shake hands for the first time with the family who owned his family.
Dred Scott Madison: A whole lot of stuff that goes through your mind. Are they going to be buttheads? Are they going to be arrogant, all of that? That all goes through your head, but you have to approach people, you have to approach people for who they are. You got to have an open mind.
Julia Longoria: And one of the most striking things I learned from Dred Scott Jr. Jr. Jr. and also from his sister Barbara.
Barbara McGregory: I'm Barbara McGregory. I'm Dred Scott's great-great-granddaughter.
Julia Longoria: Is that the Dred Scott history was actually something that was kind of kept from them.
Barbara McGregory: It was a hush, hush thing, because the Dred Scott decision. I don't know if you are understanding what that was. That, that was the last straw that sparked the Civil War. My dad, when they were growing up, they had death threats. They couldn't tell anybody who they were related to.
Julia Longoria: Your dad, that generation-- This was like a hundred years after the decision. That generation had to keep it a secret?
Barbara McGregory: Yes, that's his great grandfather. His grandmother was Dred Scott's daughter.
Julia Longoria: Dred Jr. Jr. Jr. told me that his dad was actually partially raised by Dred Scott's daughter.
Dred Scott Madison: Aunt Lizzie…
Julia Longoria: Whose name was Lizzie.
Dred Scott Madison: Tried to hide the fact. In fact, someone told me she might have been kind of mad when my grandfather, grandmother named my father Dred Scott because she was in hiding. You've got to remember when she was six years old, they went in hiding for five years during the trial, her and her sister. Because the whole basis of the trial was he didn't want his family split up. So when he lost the second appeal, he sent the girls into hiding because he didn't want them sold away. So Lizzie stayed pretty much undercover. She lived in a little room, but she always had the shades closed.
Julia Longoria: So Dred and Barbara told me their parents never talked about Dred Scott. They never had a picture up in the house. They never even knew what he looked like. In fact, as we were standing there in the lobby of the Hilton, Dred pulls out his phone.
Dred Scott Madison: Photos of Dred Scott.
Google Now: Okay, pictures of Dred Scott.
Julia Longoria: And he brings up the photo on Google.
Barbara McGregory: That's the actual photograph.
Dred Scott Madison: That's the actual photograph.
Barbara McGregory: That's the actual photograph, which looks -- Let's see.
Dred Scott Madison: It looks like this. That's it.
Barbara McGregory: Yes.
Julia Longoria: So can you describe it?
Dred Scott Madison: Really dark eyes. He's wearing a suit.
Jad Abumrad: Wait, is that the first time he's seen the picture of Dred Scott?
Julia Longoria: No, it's not the first time, but it seemed like he was noticing things in it for the first time.
Dred Scott Madison: He looks really dignified and stern in that picture. But he looks, he looks like a man who's going through it and is ready to go through some more. He does.
Julia Longoria: Yes. Okay, so at the end of the night, I end up at the hotel bar with another descendant.
Woman: What are you being interviewed for?
Charlie Taney: I'll let her answer that for you.
Julia Longoria: No, I think you should answer that.
Charlie Taney: So the Dred Scott case is a famous Supreme Court case. The Chief Justice who ruled in the case was Roger Brooke Taney, and so I'm a Taney.
Julia Longoria: Charlie Taney is the great, great-grandnephew of Roger Brooke Taney, who is the Chief Justice who basically denied Dred Scott his freedom. He's kind of a tall guy, white hair, glasses on the tip of his nose.
Charlie Taney: I'll take one more gin and tonic, okay,
Barbara McGregory: You know, we had a leather bound, original copy of that decision.
Julia Longoria: And he was actually sitting next to three descendants from the family who originally owned Dred Scott. They were like, "Come join us." And so to my left is the descendant of the people who owned Dred Scott and to my right are the people who kept Dred Scott enslaved.
Charlie Taney: Are you not going to eat one of those?
Ashton Lebourgeois: I'm not. Please have them.
Julia Longoria: And they were all just having gin tonics and crab cakes.
Mimi Lebourgeois: I was trying to remember that quote from Faulkner where he says, “The past is never dead, it's not even past.”
Charlie Taney: [laughs] It's great.
Julia Longoria: Can you, can you describe the first images you saw of Taney? Eventually, I steered the conversation back to Charlie Taney's ancestor, Roger Taney, the Supreme Court Justice.
Charlie Taney: Well, we had, we have pictures of him hanging when I grew up in the house.
Kate Taney Billingsley: It was up on the wall and it had, I remember it had this light over it.
Julia Longoria: Unlike the Dred Scott family, Charlie Taney and his daughter Kate.
Kate Taney Billingsley: Kate Taney Billingsley.
Julia Longoria: Grew up knowing exactly what Roger looks like.
Kate: His skin flapped over and he had these long jowls, but he was also a thin man.
Charlie Taney: He was very sickly.
Kate Taney Billingsley: That's something I really recall. It spooked me.
Charlie Taney: He looks like that shriveled up little old man who lives up in the house on the hill that hardly ever comes out of his house and all the kids are scared of. [laughs] When is the first time you study the Civil War, probably like fifth grade, sixth grade? And you're like sliding down on your seat when they get to the Dred Scott decision because you know, this is really terrible and that's my family and I'm like, "God, they did that." So no, you're very aware of it. And we’re also, you know, we’re also, while that's a black mark on our family, he also ran one of the most productive Courts, and it was during a time of explosive growth in the country. So we're very proud of his role and helping form America. What he's known for is the single worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court. If you're a family member, it's a little difficult to have that be the only focus. [laughs]
Mimi Lebourgeois: It's incomplete.
Julia Longoria: Sitting there, it was pretty clear that Charlie Taney was kinda like Dred Scott Madison. He also had some mixed feelings.
Charlie Taney: Having read a number of his letters, I think he really loved his wife and his family, and that he was a very loving father, and he was against slavery is pretty clear. He thought it was a blot in the national character.
Julia Longoria: He thought slavery was wrong? Are we talking about Taney still?
Charlie Taney: Yes, he felt that was wrong and should eventually be just done away with.
Julia Longoria: He told me that in one of his legal arguments, Taney totally railed against slave drivers.
Charlie Taney: He says something to the effect of, "These people are reptiles who deal in the trafficking of human flesh."
Julia Longoria: Sitting there, Charlie tells me that Roger Taney was trying to save the Union, that somehow if he ruled that America was a slavocracy once and for all, that might somehow delay the Civil War.
Charlie Taney: He was trying to solve the issue of slavery in America. That might be true, but what you can't overlook is when you read that language, that he was a stone racist, he just was.
Julia Longoria: And um, and I asked them like "When you met the Scotts, what did you feel? Did you feel like you wanted to communicate something to them?" And the Blow descendant, the family who originally owned Dred Scott, said, "Yeah."
John Lebourgeois: Yeah. Like we're sorry.
Julia Longoria: And I was like, have you ever, I turned to Taney and said like, "Have you ever actually apologized?" He was like, "I don't know."
Charlie Taney: I don't know if I ever used those words. I don't recall ever using those words.
Nicholas Inman: Thank you, Brenda.
Julia Longoria: Next day.
Nicholas Inman: Well, welcome to the Dred Scott Reconciliation Forum. I know
Julia Longoria: Day two at the forum, about a hundred people crammed into the grand ballroom of the Hilton. And a preacher…
Nicholas Inman: To begin today in our proceedings, I'd like to ask for you to stand with me and go to the Lord in prayer to bless these proceedings today.
Julia Longoria: Led the group in prayer.
Nicholas Inman: Heavenly Father, we come to you this day seeking your blessings in this room. We ask, Lord, that this reconciliation would begin today in a profound way to our hearts as we learn from our past to move to our future. Bless us this day and Lord, we give you praise. In Jesus' name, we pray and all of God's people say amen.
Preacher: You may be seated.
Julia Longoria: And then…
Brenda Young: At this time, we would like for all of the descendants, if you will, to please just stand.
Julia Longoria: These descendants get up on stage
Ashton Lebourgeois: Thank you and good morning everyone.
Julia Longoria: One by one
Ashton Lebourgeois: I'm so happy to be here as part of the reconciliation conference.
Julia Longoria: And they give like a little spiel about…
Shannon LaNier: Hello. Thank you so much. Thank you--
Julia Longoria: Who they are, what reconciliation means to them,
Shannon LaNier: And a lot of people don't know that Thomas Jefferson's wife, Martha, is a half-sister of Sally Hemings.
Julia Longoria: Things you might not know about their ancestor.
Shannon LaNier: They had the same father, John Wells.
Julia Longoria: And then after about five people had spoken,
Announcer: Please welcome Charlie to the stage.
Julia Longoria: Charlie Taney got up to talk.
Charlie Taney: Good morning. So the first thing I'd like to do is tell you how glad I am to be here and I'm real honored and privileged to be here. So let me start with Roger Brooke Taney and what it was like to grow up as a Taney. To grow up as a Taney in terms of how we feel about him, it's a mixed bag. It's a very mixed thing because on the one hand, as a Taney, you're proud of him. He was one of the longest-serving Chief Justices. The Bible he swore Lincoln in with is the same Bible that President Obama was sworn in on. However, that's not what he's known for. What he's known for is one thing. He's known for the Dred Scott decision. And just so we all want to get a handle on that, let me read just a sentence that he wrote. It was his opinion at the time of the Constitution that African-Americans, here's the quote, "For more than a century, had been regarded as beings of an inferior order, unfit to associate with the white race. So far inferior, [sighs] they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect." So, you might be proud of him, but you can't duck that. You can't duck that. So, I looked up reconciliation. I looked it up this morning, the process of reconciliation. And there are three steps. The first step is apology, the second step is forgiveness, and the third step is a new trust that grows out of that. But someone asked Kate about this issue of apology. What Kate said was, my daughter, said was, she said you know "A Taney bringing an apology to a Scott was like bringing a band-aid to an amputation. It just, it is not enough."
Julia Longoria: But he was like, "You got to start somewhere."
Charlie Taney: So let's make a little history today. From the Taneys to all the Scotts, you have our apology.
Julia Longoria: I spoke to Scott descendants afterwards.
Julia Longoria: Hi. How was that? What did you think of that?
Barbara McGregory: Very much more emotional than I thought.
Julia Longoria: That's great-great-granddaughter, Barbara McGregory.
Barbara McGregory: No one's ever apologized. Clinton made an apology some years ago, but coming from him, it didn't mean much. But when Taney got emotional when he was reading that letter, that was more heartfelt to me than anything else. The apology was okay but his emotion really touched me.
Julia Longoria: Barbara, the Dred Scott descendant, was like, "When he choked up reading that, I could feel that. Like that felt like healing." But…
Julia Longoria: How are you doing?
Dred Scott Madison: Hello.
Julia Longoria: Then I pulled aside her brother. Can I ask you what you're thinking about? How did you respond to all of that? Dred Scott Madison, the one with the eyes.
Dred Scott Madison: Everything was fine. It's just, to be honest, the last part. I have to choose my words carefully. I didn't like it. I don't think somebody should have to apologize for something they didn't do. That's it. Their ancestors. I was very uncomfortable with that. The fact that they're here is apology enough. Apologizing for something your ancestor did… You're part of a gene pool. You didn't do anything. You're judged by your works, not someone else's. Show me that you care. Don't tell me that you're sorry. Tell me that you're going to do better. That's the only comment I have on that.
Jad Abumrad: A couple final notes. When we talked to Dred Scott Madison later, he was pretty clear that Charlie Taney is already doing a lot of good. He's helping the Dred Scott Foundation to raise money. That's why he felt that Charlie didn't need to apologize.
Also, when we started the story, there were statues of Roger Brooke Taney in Annapolis and in Baltimore. This is actually how the Taneys and Scotts, one of the first ways that they've come together, they had decided collectively on a plan to amend those two statues. Rather than take them down, they had decided to put a Dred Scott statue next to them. That had been the plan. They'd been working on it. They had met with politicians. They'd met with the mayor of Baltimore. But then as we were finishing up the story…
[Archive, Male Newscaster]: Good Morning America begins now with breaking news.
Jad Abumrad: Charlottesville happened. In the wake of Charlottesville,
[Archive, Male Newscaster]: And we certainly do have some breaking news this morning. The Roger Brooke Taney statue is no longer standing outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
[Archive, Female Newscaster]: It's the latest image of a pro-slavery icon to come down in the wake of violent racial clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jad Abumrad: Both statues were taken down in the same week.
[Archive, Male Newscaster]: It was really, it was really weird out here. I'm seeing about 25 to 30 people out here. Here's what happened. They started to rope off the street and then at 12:20, they started and they hoisted Taney up. It was a golf clap when Taney came off the pedestal here and was removed. But other than that, everybody was quiet. Nobody had an opinion on this and if they did, they kept it to themselves. 145-year history gone here tonight and I'll get out of the way. This is all that's left. This is the pedestal that is left.
Julia Longoria: Since this episode originally ran in 2017, Richard Josey who led me on a tour through Dred Scott’s room at Fort Snelling, now runs a consulting company for museums and historical organizations. And one more update. Until recently, a marble bust of Chief Justice Taney sat outside the Old Supreme Court Chamber at the US Capitol. But in December 2022, Congress passed a bill to replace Taney’s bust with one of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice. The legislation states that removing Taney’s bust does not “relieve” Congress of its historical wrongs it took to protect slavery, but does allow lawmakers to recognize one of the most notorious wrongs that ever happened in one of its rooms.
[OYEZ OYEZ OYEZ]
Salman Ahad Khan: More Perfect is a production of WNYC Studios.
This episode was produced by Julia Longoria along with Jad Abumrad, Suzie Lechtenberg, Jenny Lawton, Kelly Prime, Sarah Qari, Sean Rameswaram and Alex Overington. With Elie Mystal, Cristian Farias, Linda Hirshman, David Gebel and Michelle Harris.
It was updated by me, Salman Ahad Khan, Sophie Hurwitz, and with help from Emily Madray.
Special thanks to Tara Grove, Gyan Riley, Soren Shade and to Kate Taney Billingsley, whose play "A Man of His Time" helped inspire this episode.
The More Perfect team also includes Emily Siner, Emily Botein, Whitney Jones, Alyssa Edes, Gabrielle Berbey, David Herman, Joe Plourde, Mike Kutchman and Jenny Lawton.
Our theme is by Alex Overington, and the episode art is by Candice Evers.
If you want more stories about the Supreme Court, we’ve got you covered. Subscribe to More Perfect and scroll back for more than two dozen episodes.
Supreme Court audio is from Oyez, a free law project by Justia and the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.
Support for More Perfect is provided in part by The Smart Family Fund, and by listeners like you.
Thanks so much for listening.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.