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date: 02 April 2020

Dred Scott v. Sandfordlocked

1857 case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that U.S. territories could not prohibit slavery, and that neither free nor enslaved blacks had constitutional rights.


Dred Scott, originally named Sam Blow, was born a slave in Virginia around 1795. His owner, Peter Blow, moved him first to Alabama in 1818, then to St. Louis, Missouri in 1830. After Blow died, his son sold Sam to John Emerson, a surgeon in the U.S. Army, who used him as a valet. In 1834, Emerson was transferred to Fort Armstrong, Illinois, where slavery was prohibited by the state constitution of 1818. Like many other slave-owning army officers, Emerson did not believe his postings in free states subjected him to antislavery laws, so he brought Sam with him.

Two years later, Emerson was transferred to Fort Snelling, in what is now Minnesota but was then part of the Wisconsin Territory. Slavery in the territory was banned by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which had ended a long standing debate ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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