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.

Samuel Worcester

Samuel Worcester

The Fight for Cherokee Rights

“I am Under no Moral Obligation to Remove”

Worcester v. Georgia

31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832)

The Reverend Samuel Austin Worcester petitioned Chief Justice John Marshall's Supreme Court so he could defend the Cherokees, be released from the Georgia Penitentiary, and defeat Georgia. Worcester and the Cherokee Nation provoked a controversy concerning not only the Cherokees’ status but also states’ rights and federal-state relations. Worcester was fortunate to be released from prison, but it took more than a favorable decision in Worcester v. Georgia in 1832 to unlock his prison cell.

By the 1830s the Cherokees’ sovereignty and survival faced grave dangers. Georgia had made clear its intention to govern the previously independent Cherokees when the state executed a Cherokee man. ...

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