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The Dred Scott Decision (also known as Dred Scott v. Sanford) was a decision made by by the US Supreme Court in 1857 which determined that the Constitution of the United States was not meant to include US citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free.
See the fact file below for more information on the Dred Scott Decision or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Dred Scott Decision worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ABOUT DRED SCOTT
- Dred Scott was born into slavery in 1799 in Virginia; when he was 18, he moved with his owner, Peter Blow, to Alabama.
- In 1834, Scott was sold to army surgeon Dr. John Emerson; over the next decade, Scott was moved from state to state, some of which were slave states and others of which were free.
- In 1842, Emerson left the army and died shortly after; it was then that Scott asked Emerson’s widow for freedom.
THE DRED SCOTT DECISION – THE BEGINNING
- Upon his rejection of freedom, Scott and his wife Harriet filed separate freedom suits in April 1846 to try to gain their freedom.
- Despite not being able to read or write, both Dred and Harriet received logistical and financial support from members of their church, as well as from abolitionists; Dred’s former owner, Peter Blow, also aided him by providing financial assistance.
- The basis for their case was that since they had lived in Illinois and Wisconsin, both free states, this would mean they could not be re-enslaved upon returning to a slave state.
- The same argument was made for Dred and Harriet’s child Eliza, who had been born on a steamboat between a free state and a free territory, which would also require her emancipation.
- The case was assigned to Judge Alexander Hamilton, who was known to be quite lenient with slave freedom suits, but unfortunately the Scotts lost the case due to a technicality.
- Dred Scott was awarded a new trial in December 1847, but Emerson appealed this decision.
- Unfortunately, for various reasons, the new trial didn’t begin until January 1850.
- The Scotts were well-represented, and the jury ruled in favor of the family, which was a victory for Dred and Harriet.
- However, Emerson was not willing to accept the loss, so she appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.
THE DRED SCOTT DECISION – TO THE SUPREME COURT
- In November 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s previous decision, stating that the Scotts were still legally slaves.
- In November of the following year, Dred Scott filed a federal lawsuit with the United States Circuit Court of Missouri; however, Irene Emerson had transferred Scott and his family to her brother, John Sanford.
- In his complaints, Scott alleged that Sanford had assaulted his family and had also held them captive for six hours in January 1853.
- Unfortunately, on May 15, 1854, the federal court ruled against Scott, which kept him and his family in slavery; Scott decided to appeal this in December 1854, with the trial beginning on February 11, 1856, at which time the case was gaining notoriety with abolitionists, politicians, and high-profile attorneys.
- Unfortunately, Dred Scott lost his fight for freedom again on March 6, 1857.
- The Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that contained opinions from all nine justices, but focused more on the majority opinion of the Court, which was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney and was the focus of the controversy.
THE LEGACY OF THE DRED SCOTT DECISION
- Historians discovered that prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President-elect James Buchanan had applied improper political pressure to members of the sitting court.
- In addition, the majority opinion piece written by Taney asserted that black people could not be American citizens, and that the American social and political landscape never intended to include black African slaves and their descendants.
- He concluded that black people were not American citizens and that the laws that governed America showed a “perpetual and impassable barrier” that was intended to divide the white race from “the one which they had reduced to slavery”.
- This opinion was challenged by Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis, who stated that there was no basis for Taney’s claim that black people could not be citizens.
- Another Justice, John McLean, attacked the Supreme Court’s decision, stating it wasn’t legally authoritative.
- Free states fiercely criticized Taney’s majority opinion and many people, including Abraham Lincoln, saw it as a plot to eventually impose slavery throughout the United States.
- In the years that followed the Dred Scott Decision, the Scott family were transferred to the ownership of Irene Emerson’s new husband, Calvin C. Chaffee, who was an abolitionist.
- After being attacked for his hypocritical action of owning a slave while claiming to be an abolitionist, Chaffee transferred the Scott family to Taylor Blow, the son of Schott’s former owner, Peter.
- Blow filed manumission papers with Judge Hamilton on May 26, 1857; the Scott family was finally emancipated.
- Dred Scott died of tuberculosis 18 months after gaining freedom, on November 7, 1858.
Dred Scott Decision Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Dred Scott Decision across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Dred Scott Decision worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Dred Scott Decision (also known as Dred Scott v. Sanford) which was a decision made by by the US Supreme Court in 1857 which determined that the Constitution of the United States was not meant to include US citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Dred Scott Decision Facts
- Key Players in the Courts
- Timeline of the Decision
- Difference of Opinion
- Commemorative Poster
- Feelings Web
- Consequences of the Decision
- Useful Legal Terms
- Dred Scott Wordsearch
- Opinion Piece
- Dred Scott Crossword
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Link will appear as Dred Scott Decision Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, April 24, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.