More than a century after the Supreme Court declared that Dred Scott and his fellow slaves were not U.S. citizens, descendants of Scott and the court’s chief justice at the time have come together to heal a rift of anger and guilt that spanned generations.
This week, the family of former Supreme Court Justice Roger Brooke Taney offered a public apology on the 160th anniversary of the landmark decision. Lynne Jackson, the great-great granddaughter of the man who tried suing for his freedom in a monumental court, is embracing the apology and praised Taney’s family for working to right the wrongs of the late judge.
“The fact that they were willing to put themselves out there, I’m very proud of them for stepping out in a public arena and making that declaration of honest truth — not whitewashing it, not making excuses, not denying it,” Jackson, 64, told TIME on Wednesday. “I knew it was a sincere apology so that made it very meaningful for me. It wasn’t like, ‘We should just say that and run.’”
In 1857, Taney ruled that black people, who were either slaves or who had ancestors who were slaves, were not American citizens and had no standing to sue in federal court. The decision indirectly became a catalyst for the Civil War before it was later overturned.