Kate Taney Billingsley grew up struggling with her family history.
Her ancestor Roger B. Taney was the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision, issued March 6, 1857, that ruled Congress could not regulate slavery and that blacks could not be considered U.S. citizens.
She grew up hearing relatives debate a thorny question: Should the family apologize to Scott's descendants for the decision?
"What do you do with that kind of generational guilt?" she asked.
Billingsley, a New York actress and playwright, addressed her angst by writing a play on the matter, and came to Annapolis on Monday — the 160th anniversary of the ruling — to enjoy one of its fruits as her father, Charles Taney of Greenwich, Conn., apologized to Scott's great-great-granddaughter at the foot of a statue of Roger Taney that has stood on the Maryland State House grounds since 1872.
"Apologizing to the Scotts for the Dred Scott decision is like bringing a Band-Aid to an amputation. It's right and necessary to apologize, but what's important now is what actions we can all take" to bring about racial reconciliation in America.
"The Scotts and the Taneys believe that Americans should learn from their history, not bury their history," they have said in a joint statement.