Dred Scott Teacher Resources

Modern historians and political scholars regard the decision Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) to be one of the Supreme Court’s greatest missteps. Not only did it disregard the personhood and citizenship of a black man in free territory, it set a precedent for court cases going forward—and, many believe, was a contributing factor to the American Civil War only eight years later.

Provide historical context to the notable case with an overview of American slavery and a presentation about the events leading to the Civil War, including the insurrections of Nat Turner and John Brown. Young historians can formulate a debate against the institution of slavery, and engage in a lesson focused on Frederick Douglass’s powerful words regarding true American independence.  

Once students understand the events leading up to Dred Scott v. Sandford, they can watch an informative video about the case, and compare it to another prominent case of the Civil Rights Movement, Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Taking them into the modern era, a thought-provoking lesson prompts class members to analyze the historical and current effects of Supreme Court decisions on African Americans before discussing an essential question for the future: Can the Supreme Court remedy its past mistakes?

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Dred Scott