Indiana News

Dred Scott Descendant Discusses Case With Indiana Lawyers, Students

Infamous 1857 decision declared blacks noncitizens, set stage for war


Lynne Jackson speaks alongside Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (left) and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.  ( photo: Eric Berman)

The great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott is in Indianapolis to explain the Supreme Court's consensus worst moment to attorneys and high school students.


In 1857, the justices rejected Scott's argument that his five years living in free Northern states had ended his slavery -- and, while they were at it, threw out the Missouri Compromise, and declared blacks could never become citizens.

Lynne Jackson, president of the St. Louis-based Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, says it's not too much to argue the ruling against her ancestor lit the spark for the Civil War four years later, and therefore to the trio of constitutional amendments that ended slavery once and for all.

Jackson acknowledges in the atmosphere of the 1850s, the ruling wasn't a complete surprise. But she says the court's attempt to go beyond Scott's case to settle the slavery question once and for all is a warning to today's judges of the risk of judicial activism.

Jackson joined Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the author of a book about the Scott decision, for a discussion of the case's legal issues at Martin University. They also sketched the case's background for students from five Indianapolis-area high schools at the statehouse.


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