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A Report of the Decision of the Supreme Court . . . in the Case of Dred Scott Versus John F. A. Sanford, by Benjamin C. Howard, Reporter of Decisions, 1857

The United States Supreme Court ultimately decided the Dred Scott case. The court ruled that enslaved people and their descendants were not citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal courts. The court also determined that temporary residence in a free state did not convey freedom or citizenship, nor could Congress outlaw slavery in the territories.

Office of the Curator, United States Supreme Court

A Report of the Decision of the Supreme Court . . . in the Case of Dred Scott

Congress and the Court Determine African American Citizenship

in 1857 the supreme court decided Dred Scott vs. Sandford (sic), a historic case in which Scott, an enslaved African American, sued for his freedom. The court ruled that enslaved individuals and their descendants were not citizens and couldn’t sue in federal courts. It affirmed slaveholders’ rights in western territories, heightening tensions that sparked the Civil War. During Reconstruction, Congress protected African Americans’ rights through legislation and constitutional amendments. The Fourteenth Amendment nullified the Dred Scott decision by constitutionally guaranteeing African Americans’ citizenship.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

U.S. Constitution, Fourteenth Amendment