Ken Burns Classroom

Dred Scott

Portrait of Dred Scott by Louis Schultze, 1888
Portrait of Dred Scott by Louis Schultze, 1888. Missouri Historical Society Museum Collections. The photograph of the portrait was taken by David Schultz in 1999. NS 23864. Photograph and scan, 1999-2006, Missouri Historical Society.


A gifted slave whose name adorns the 19th century’s most celebrated legal case, Dred Scott claimed his temporary residence in a free state, Illinois, entitled him to freedom – after being denied the right to buy his freedom. In a landmark 1857 decision that inflamed abolitionists, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African Americans were not entitled to U.S. citizenship. Later freed, Scott lived only a year after the ruling.

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