Dred Scott v. Sandford

First edition of The Case of Dred Scott in the US Supreme Court decision
First edition of The Case of Dred Scott in the US Supreme Court decision

Historical Context

In an infamous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in 1857 that American negros were not US citizens and that they couldn't hear his case. Not only that but as Dred Scott was a slave, he was the property of his masters and the court ruled it could not take property away without compensation.

Born a slave and for many years owned by an army officer, Dred Scott had lived in Wisconsin, where slavery was banned. After his owner's death he tried to purchase his freedom but was refused and his case, based on the fact he had lived in Wisconsin, worked it way through the Missouri state courts before reaching the US Supreme Court.

The case shows the tension between the north and south in the years leading up to the civil war. The decision was only overturned after the civil war by the passing of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.

Document Info

Location signed: Washington, D.C., USA

Source: Smithsonian

Related Events

  • 1857-03-06 Dred Scott Decision: US Supreme Court rules Africans cannot be US citizens
  • 1857-05-26 US slave Dred Scott and family freed by owner Henry Taylor Blow, only 3 months after US courts ruled against them in Dred Scott v. Sandford
  • 1957-03-06 Centenary of Dred Scott slavery court decision marked by rediscovery of Scott's grave

Historical Documents