Dred Scott (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Scott instigated a legal challenge to the definition of “citizenship” for black people in the United States. His challenge led to the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which became a step toward Civil War and the end of slavery.
Dred Scott was most likely born sometime around 1795 in Virginia, although no actual documents remain to substantiate this. He was born a slave, and little information about him exists in the official record until he reached adulthood. Scott probably arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1830 from Virginia and Alabama, accompanying his owner, Peter Blow, Blow’s wife Elizabeth, and their children. The Blows had been farmers in Virginia and Alabama, but when they arrived in Missouri, they tried their hand as owners of a boarding house, which was only barely successful.
Scott is described in the record as being about 5 feet tall and very dark skinned. He was illiterate. It is likely that Scott had been a slave to the Blows since his adolescence, if not his childhood, and the emotional connections Scott made with the sons of Peter and Elizabeth proved to be helpful to the Scott family later. During the series of trials that began with Scott’s suit to be recognized as a citizen of the United States, a St. Louis newspaper reporter interviewed Scott and reported that, although he was illiterate, he was “not ignorant” and that it...
(The entire section is 1930 words.)
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