One family's fight for freedom changed America.
Slavery should never have existed at Fort Snelling. Both the Northwest Ordinance (1787) and the Missouri Compromise (1820) prohibited slavery there. Still, the Army encouraged its officers to bring enslaved people to the fort.
Dred and Harriet Scott were enslaved at Fort Snelling for many years. When they had the chance, they sued for their freedom. Their case dragged on for more than a decade.
In 1857, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Scotts had no right to sue for their freedom. The chief justice wrote that Black people, free or enslaved, had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
Born in racism, the Dred Scott decision inflamed tensions leading to civil war. Northerners who hated slavery were furious. Southern enslavers were elated.
And the Scotts? After the court’s decision, the son of Dred’s original enslaver assumed their ownership. He freed them two months later.
Learn more about Dred and Harriet Scott's legal fight for freedom in our four-part video series.
Major funding for this video series provided by Thomson Reuters.