Opposition Builds to Miller’s Support of Taney Statue

by: Hamil R. Harris Special to the AFRO
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Roussan Etienne Jr.  stood   in a Clinton, Md. parking lot across  from B.K. Miller’s liquor store holding a poster  that read, “No Bigotry and Racism.”

Etienne was protesting outside of a liquor store that is owned by the State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s family. He said he wanted to call attention to a letter Miller wrote to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), questioning the removal of the statue of Roger Taney, a Supreme Court Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857 that said that Blacks were not citizens of the United States, from its perch in Annapolis, Md.

Roussan Etienne Jr. is running for the Republican ticket for Maryland State Senator of District 27 in Prince George’s County. (Courtesy photo)

“This was a confederate statue, we are talking about a statue that had nothing to do with building people up but tearing people down,” said Etienne, a minister from Calvert County who is running as a Republican to replace Miller in the 27th District, which spans across parts of Prince George’s County.

While Etienne, a political neophyte, said he plans to challenge the most powerful lawmaker in Annapolis, because he is determined to challenge the status quo. “Nothing gets done for the people of Prince George’s County. People want change and change is now here.”

According to the Maryland Board of Elections, Etienne has another contender for the Republican ticket, Jesse Allen Peed, who also ran for the seat against Miller in 2014. The 2018 Gubernatorial Primary will take place on June 26, 2018. The General Election is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2018.

Etienne is a long shot at best, but Miller also drew fire from one of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D) has introduced legislation in Annapolis to censure Miller for his comments about the statue.

“In this racial climate where you have the President of the United States and the President of the Senate saying the same thing that sends a terrible message,” Muse told the AFRO. “For those of us who are African American and Democrat, what he did in the Dred Scott case is despicable and we don’t need an expiation at this time.”

On Aug. 28, Miller released a statement that apologized for his remarks on Taney, saying that his goal is to only bring unity and improve Maryland.

The Dred Scott saga began in 1830, after Scott’s master Peter Blow gave up farming and settled in St. Louis, Mo. He sold Scott to Dr. John Emerson, U.S. Army surgeon, who after purchasing Scott took him to Fort Armstrong in Ill., which was a state that prohibited slavery.

Lawyers for Scott argued that he was a free man, but in a 7-2 decision, the court ruled in March of 1857 that a slave who had resided in a Free State and territory (where slavery was prohibited) was not thereby entitled to his freedom; that Blacks were not and could never be citizens of the United States.

In his letter to Hogan, Miller wrote that he disagreed with the decision of a state board to remove the Taney statue.

“We all know derogatory language and holding of that decision created great and lasting  the wounds in our Country and incited rather than avoided a Civil War,” Miller wrote. “And yet, many do not know that Roger Brooke Taney also served with distinction in many State and National offices.  He was born in Calvert County and later moved to Frederick County where he was elected as a member of the House of Delegates and then the Maryland Senate. Taney was then elected as Attorney General of the State of Maryland. He served as Acting United States Secretary of War and also as the Attorney General for the United States where his opinion on South Carolina nullification was later used by President Lincoln as the basis to declare the secession invalid.

“Few people are aware of Taney’s prior anti-slavery words and actions and that unlike George Washington who deeded his slaves upon his death, Taney freed his slaves early in his life.”

Professor Alvin Thornton, a Prince George’s County historian, author and former president of the Board of Education, said the removal of Taney’s statue is a “teachable moment,” for students in the county.

“There are many buildings in the county in which people don’t know about the person it was named after. For example Duval High School was named after Gabriel Duval who was one of the largest slave owners in the county,” Thornton said.

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