Rename Taney Street in Philly is the latest campaign to erase a racist past

by Rita Giordano

In the latest action aimed at purging the symbols of racial intolerance and exclusion from America’s public spaces, protesters demonstrated along Fitler Square’s Taney Street on Saturday, calling on officials to rename it for someone who has united the nation rather than divided it.

The Philadelphia street, which is in a number of city neighborhoods, is named for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, the principal author of the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford decision of 1857, which held that Africans, whether enslaved or free, had no standing in court because they were not and could not be U.S. citizens.

“This grew out of a recognition that a lot needs to change in our society,” said protester Ben Keys, 40, a Taney Street resident and Wharton associate professor. “Culture needs to change as well as policies to make things more racially inclusive and make everyone in our communities feel welcome.”

About 40 people took part in the peaceful protest that started at Markward Playground.

“This really is an issue that’s emblematic of our time,” said Joshua Isserman, 40, president of the Fitler Square Neighborhood Association, one of the groups supporting the Rename Taney Street effort. “It’s only a start for the type of equity issues we need to start to really address with racism. Symbols are injurious to people, and they remind them of how the system cannot work for everyone.”

“The Mayor supports the effort to rename Taney Street,” a spokesperson for the city said. “Renaming requires City Council to introduce and pass an ordinance; the Mayor is not able to do this unilaterally.”

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