The Dred Scott Case — 2010

Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law

Edited by David Thomas Konig, Paul Finkelman, and Christopher Alan Bracey

“(T)hese essays have collectively expanded the context of the case and greatly enriched our understanding of its impact, then and now.… (an) enormously thought-provoking volume.”

Civil War Book Review

“(The Dred Scott Case) conveniently brings together a striking array of important perspectives, both on the nineteenth-century story of Dred Scott itself and on its continuing significance. Scholars and undergraduates alike will find this volume rewarding.”

The Journal of Southern History

In 1846 two slaves, Dred and Harriet Scott, filed petitions for their freedom in the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. As the first true civil rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Dred Scott v. Sandford raised issues that have not been fully resolved despite three amendments to the Constitution and more than a century and a half of litigation.

The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law presents original research and the reflections of the nation’s leading scholars who gathered in St. Louis to mark the 150th anniversary of what was arguably the most infamous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision, which held that African Americans “had no rights” under the Constitution and that Congress had no authority to alter that, galvanized Americans and thrust the issue of race and law to the center of American politics. This collection of essays revisits the history of the case and its aftermath in American life and law. In a final section, the present-day justices of the Missouri Supreme Court offer their reflections on the process of judging and provide perspective on the misdeeds of their nineteenth-century predecessors who denied the Scotts their freedom.
Contributors: Austin Allen, Adam Arenson, John Baugh, Hon. Duane Benton, Christopher Alan Bracey, Alfred L. Brophy, Paul Finkelman, Louis Gerteis, Mark Graber, Daniel W. Hamilton, Cecil J. Hunt II, David Thomas Konig, Leland Ware, Hon. Michael A. Wolff


David Thomas Konig is a professor of history and a professor of law at Washington University, St. Louis. He is the author or editor of articles, books, and documentary collections on American legal history from the first colonial settlements to the Civil War, including Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County, 1629–1692 and Devising Liberty: Creating and Preserving Freedom in the New American Republic.


Picture of Paul Finkelman

Paul Finkelman is President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy at Albany Law School and Senior Fellow in the Government Law Center at Albany Law School. He is the author or editor of many articles and books, including Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, and A March of Liberty: A Constitutional History of the United States, and coeditor (with Martin J. Hershock) of The History of Michigan Law.


Christopher Alan Bracey is a professor of law at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He is the author of Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, From Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice.