(Jennifer Schuessler’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/12.)
IN 1857, Roger B. Taney, chief justice of the United States, wrote that Dred Scott, an enslaved man living in Missouri, had no standing to sue for freedom, on the grounds that blacks could not be citizens. They were, he declared, “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
That ruling fanned the flames of the Civil War and is widely reviled today as the worst legal decision in American history. But this weekend, the Taney and Scott legacies will be brought together less contentiously when Lynne M. Jackson, a great-great-granddaughter of Scott, and Charles Taney, a great-great-grandnephew of Taney, meet onstage at the Actors Studio in Manhattan for a conversation about race, reconciliation and their famous forebears.
The occasion is a performance of “A Man of His Time,” a one-act play by Kate Taney Billingsley, Charles Taney’s daughter, about a fictional meeting between a Taney descendant and a Scott descendant in a diner on the New Jersey Turnpike on March 6, 2016, 159 years to the day after the ruling was issued.