Recognition for Dred Scott, wife

Frederick places bronze plaque near monument to Taney, who decided slave's fate

November 17, 2009|By Jacques Kelly

A bronze plaque honoring slave Dred Scott and his wife Harriet will be unveiled at ceremonies today in front of Frederick's City Hall.

The plaque and granite pedestal is adjacent to an older monument to Roger Brooke Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice who lived in Frederick and whose controversial decision in the Dred Scott case of 1856 said that slaves had no rights under the U.S. Constitution. Historians have noted that the Dred Scott Decision put an end to the Missouri Compromise, which allowed slavery in some states and prohibited it in others, and exacerbated the divisions between the North and the South.

"It is indeed significant that Dred Scott's plaque will be going up in the home of his chief protagonist," said Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, who is key speaker for the event. "We must look back at this case and the confluence of events that brought Scott and Taney together."

The plaque reads, in part: "The unenlightened racial view found in the pivotal Dred Scott Decision, the national debate that ensued and the bloodshed of the Civil War that followed ... all make it important to comprehend the historical context of our past and to continue our progress toward racial equality."

A spokesman for the city said the plaque, its wording and design took more than two years to conceive and finalize. Its creation was spearheaded by local attorney E. Kevin Lollar and Mayor Jeff Holtzinger, along with other civic leaders.

The plaque's wording was written by Mark Hudson, former executive director of the Historical Society of Frederick County, attorney Barry Kissin and Frederick City Alderman C. Paul Smith.

The $19,000 plaque is made of cast bronze with a granite pedestal. The portraits of Harriet and Dred Scott were taken from National Archives images housed in a St. Louis, Mo., museum.

Dred Scott, born in Virginia, was a slave who argued that he became a free man when his owner took him into a free state as designated by the Missouri Compromise. Taney, who was born in Calvert County, lived in Frederick and practiced law with Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The ceremony is set for 11 a.m. and is open to the public at 101 N. Court St. in downtown Frederick.

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