100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.
Fight for Freedom from Slavery
“A Subordinate and Inferior Class of Beings”
Dred Scott v. Sandford
60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)
When he died on September 17, 1858, Dred Scott was, with the possible exception of Frederick Douglass, the best-known black man in the United States and perhaps in the western world. Scott's long, and ultimately unsuccessful, struggle for freedom in the courts catapulted this obscure slave into national prominence. At the time of his death, his case was the focus of intense political scrutiny. Indeed, the day before Scott [Page 178]died, Abraham Lincoln debated the significance of the case with Stephen Douglas during the 1858 Illinois senatorial race.
Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia around 1800. In 1818 Scott's master, Peter Blow, moved from ...