The Constitution and Citizenship: The Dred Scott Decision (Conclusion)
We conclude today the discussion on the Dred Scott decision of 1857 – a case often cited as producing the worst ruling in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legal scholar Paul Finkelman, who teaches constitutional law, legal history, and race and the law at Albany Law School in New York, gave us, in two consecutive weeks, a detailed background of the case and the constitutional questions it raised.
Dred Scott, enslaved at birth – around 1799, in Southampton County, Virginia – sued for his freedom and the freedom of his wife and two daughters, on the grounds that they had lived in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, where slavery had been outlawed. But the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, said that no person of African ancestry ever was meant to be a citizen of the United States, nor to benefit from any rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Today we hear from Justice Stephen Breyer, an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, on the matter.