Thurgood Marshall Portrait by Black Artist Unveiled by Maryland Lawmakers

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to remove former U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s statue from the Capitol and replace it with a figure of the late civil rights attorney and first Black Justice of the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall.

The reason behind Taney’s bust removal, which originally sat at the Old Supreme Court Chamber entrance in Washington D.C., was because the congressional leaders wanted to denounce racism—and the individuals that participated in it—and pay tribute to those who positively impacted America.

Taney’s history of racism stemmed during his time as a leader of the Supreme Court from 1836 to 1864. In 1857, Taney wrote the Dred Scott decision, which ruled against citizenship for Black people and supported slavery. Following the House’s announcement, limited information about Marshall’s statue was released to the general public.

Despite that, another one of Marshall’s tributes made headlines on Jan. 5. According to The Washington Post, a portrait of Marshall was unveiled during a special ceremony in the Maryland Senate building. Black artist Ernest Shaw’s painting showed a young Marshall in 1935 following his win of a “Court of Appeals case” that desegregated the University of Maryland Law School.

Senator William C. Smith Jr. opened during the ceremony by speaking about how monumental this moment was to him and others after seeking to remove a photo of Celcius Calvert, a former governor of Newfoundland, because historians claimed he was a slave owner.

While addressing the positive changes, Smith said, “A lot of people say it’s not a big deal—symbols won’t educate the uneducated or put food on the table or shelter the unsheltered—but we all know the symbols matter a lot because they make public spaces like this more open, and welcoming for everyone.”

He added, “Just think about how impactful a portrait like this will be for someone that has never seen themselves reflected on the walls of the halls of power. A portrait of a young attorney in the midst of his fight for civil rights will serve as a symbol of hope for all who would come to the committee in search of justice.”