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Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

Street Law / Landmark Cases / Cases / Dred Scott v. Sandford

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

Slavery, Due Process, the Missouri Compromise

" . . . We think they [people of African ancestry] are . . . not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. . . ." — Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, speaking for the majority

In 1834, slave Dred Scott was purchased in Missouri and then brought to Illinois, a free (non-slave) state. His owner and he later moved to present-day Minnesota where slavery had been recently prohibited, and then back to Missouri.  When his owner died, Scott sued the widow to whom he was left, claiming he was no longer a slave because he had become free after living in a free state.  At a time when the country was in deep conflict over slavery, the Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott was not a “citizen of the state” so they had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the majority opinion also stated that he was not a free man.

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About the materials

These materials were developed for students of various skill levels, and teachers should choose the level that works best for their students.  Answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities can be found in the FOR TEACHERS ONLY tab under each case.

Background summary and questions to consider (by reading level)

Important vocabulary (by reading level)

Legal Concepts

Other useful background information

Activities*

The Case
After the Case

* Answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities can be found in the FOR TEACHERS ONLY tab under each case.

Teaching strategies used

Planning time and activities

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