Scott, Dred

Born: 1800-XX-XX Southampton County, Virginia

Died: 1858-09-17 Saint Louis, Missouri

Dred Scott was born into slavery under the ownership of Peter Blow. Blow's family briefly relocated to Huntsville and Florence in Alabama before finally settling in St. Louis, Missouri in 1830. Shortly thereafter, Blow sold Scott to John Emerson, an army surgeon. Emerson's military career led him to relocate with the enslaved people he owned to various places, most significantly posts in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory. This extended period of residence in free states became the foundation for the landmark case, Scott v. Sandford, in which Scott unsuccessfully sued for his freedom. The case became a major event in the growing sectional crisis of the 1850s.

Aside from Scott's involvement in Scott v. Sandford, he had an active family life. Scott married Harriet Robinson while in the Wisconsin Territory in either 1836 or 1837, and they had two daughters. While the case was being tried, Scott remained in St. Louis and worked in various positions. Following the trial, Scott's then-owner, Eliza Emerson's husband, John Chaffee, gave Scott to Taylor Blow, who was a Missouri resident and could therefore free Scott. Blow manumitted the Scotts on May 27, 1857, and Scott took a job as a hotel porter in St. Louis. He died a year later.

Walter Ehrlich, "Scott, Dred," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 19:487-89; Walter Ehrlich, They Have No Rights: Dred Scott's Struggle for Freedom (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979); Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).