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“A Public Meeting . . . to consider the atrocious decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott Case . . . ,” broadside, ca. 1857

The Dred Scott decision sparked intense national debate in a period of mounting tension between advocates of slavery and abolitionists. The Supreme Court’s finding nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820, by which Congress banned slavery in western territories north of the 36°30′ parallel. The decision threatened the tenuous balance in the Senate between free states and slave states.

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A Public Meeting . . . to consider the atrocious decision of the Supreme Court

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