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Dred Scott montage
Photo montage by Timmy Canale.
Freed slave

Dred Scott was born in 1795 in Southampton County, Virginia. He was born a slave.

His first owner took him to St. Louis for two years then his owner died. His next owner was a surgeon that moved to Illinois which was a free state, where he married Harriet Robinson.

He stayed in Illinois for a while which gave him the legal standing to make a claim for freedom. Scott never made his claim while living in the free lands because he was unaware of his rights.

After Scott's owner, John Emerson, died, the owner’s widow, Irene Emerson, hired them. Scott offered her $300 to buy the their freedom. After she refused, he tried to obtain his freedom through the courts.

Scott made history by launching a legal battle to gain his freedom. He went to trial but lost on a technicality because he couldn’t prove that he and Harriet were owned by Emerson’s widow. He lost in his initial suit in a local St. Louis court. He won his second trial only to have it overturned by the Missouri State Supreme Court.

Scott filed another suit in federal court in 1854, against John Sanford, the widow Emerson's brother and executor of his estate. When that case was decided in favor of Sanford, that Scott turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision also declared that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery. Too controversial to retain the Scotts as slaves after the trial, Mrs. Emerson remarried and returned Dred Scott and his family to the Blows who granted them their freedom in May 1857.

That same month, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech discussing the Dred Scott decision on the anniversary of the American Abolition Society. Dred Scott and his family stayed in St. Louis after his emancipation, and he found work as a porter in a local hotel. But after only a little more than a year of true freedom, Scott died from tuberculosis on September 17, 1858.


Biography.com Editors. "Dred Scott Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.


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