Group Organizes to Rename Taney Street in Philadelphia

In 1858 a Philadelphia street became known as Taney Street. Today, a group of activists are organizing efforts to rename the street citing its racist origins.

The Rename Taney Coalition has argued that the street name probably honors Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney who authored the Dred Scott decision. In this ruling, Taney argued that that Black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The naming of Taney Street one year after this decision is not likely a coincidence.

Renaming Taney Street, which runs north-south through neighborhoods in South Philadelphia, Fairmount, and North Philadelphia, would require legislation by City Council. The street passes through three different city council members’ districts. The council members have expressed varying stances on renaming the street, ranging from active support to being unengaged in the process. There is no clear process for renaming a street which presents a further obstacle to the coalition’s efforts.

The Rename Taney Coalition has focused most of its effort in South Philadelphia, but is actively organizing in North Philadelphia as well. On Sunday the group held a community event at the Young Chances Foundation Community Engagement Center in Grays Ferry. The coalition has also conducted a survey to get neighbors’ feedback on renaming the street. According to the survey, 89 percent of Taney Street residents support changing the name.

Ben Keys, one of the coalition’s organizers, told the Philadelphia Inquirer why renaming the street was so pressing. “I think of Taney as one of the strongest symbols of white supremacy,” Keys said.