About three dozen descendants of Dred Scott gathered in St. Louis last week to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which led to the Civil War.
On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney announced his 7-2 court majority ruling that Scott, a slave in Missouri, was not a U.S. citizen and had no right to sue in the federal courts. Scott had sued for his freedom in 1846, using the argument that he had lived in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820: once free, always free.
But Taney wrote in his opinion that Scott had never been free, that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional, and that the federal government could not prohibit slavery in the new territories. He contended that blacks had "no rights a white man need respect."
Scott is buried in Calvary Cemetery on W. Florissant Avenue in north St. Louis. Descendants, along with hundreds of others, gathered at the downtown Central Library for speeches, songs, and a theater performance by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company. Scott's great-great-granddaughter, Lynne Jackson, said, "By virtue of the fact that we are not a slave nation, we became more blessed and became the greatest nation in the world."
But a lot of blood was shed along the way: 600,000 Americans (from a population of 30 million) died in the Civil War via combat or disease.
In 1973, the Supreme Court by a 7-2 majority found that unborn children have no rights that those who are born need respect.