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By Donovan X. Ramsey

Dred Scott was a black man who was born a slave in Virginia around the year 1800.


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At nearly 32, he was taken by his master to free territory in Illinois. This move gave Scott the grounds to petition for his freedom, but he didn’t do so at the time. Instead, Scott was taken back to the South and continued to work as a slave. In 1843, he attempted to buy his freedom for $300 and was rejected, leading Scott to take his case to the higher courts.

A series of trials began in 1847. He lost in a local court, but the Missouri Supreme Court decided for a retrial. In 1850, he was declared free, but the court reversed the decision two years later. In 1856, Dred Scott v. Sandford went to the Supreme Court.

The Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared in 1857 that blacks — enslaved or free — were not and could never be citizens of the United States.