Who Was Dred Scott?


Quick Answer

Dred Scott was a slave, who later became a social activist by suing for his freedom. He was born into slavery in Virginia, but after his first master died, he worked for several masters who took him into free states to work for extended periods of time.

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Full Answer

After marrying another slave, Scott tried to buy their freedom, but he was refused. To gain freedom, he took the case to court. Dred Scott first sued for freedom in 1847 in the Missouri courts. He eventually won in the St. Louis circuit court, but it was appealed and overturned by the Missouri supreme court. After 10 years of appeals, the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford went before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and had no right to sue. Southerners celebrated the ruling, while northerners were upset. Dred Scott v. Sandford became another factor pushing the United States toward Civil War.

The sons of Scott's first master not only helped pay his court bills, but they eventually bought Scott and his wife in order to grant them freedom. Scott enjoyed life as a free man for nine months before he died.

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