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The Dred Scott Case and its Legacy: Race, Law, and the Struggle for Equality

March 1 - 3, 2007 Washington University in St. Louis

This symposium will commemorate the 150th anniversary of one of the most infamous decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court. The Dred Scott Case, which originated in St. Louis, articulated a doctrine of legally sanctioned inequality whose effects were only partially remedied by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The three-day symposium will examine the role law and the courts in promoting racial equality, beginning with the legal strategies of black and white abolitionists before 1857 and continuing through efforts from Reconstruction to the present to make meaningful the full legal citizenship that the decision denied.

The symposium will attract and involve the participation of distinguished scholars, judges, legal professionals, K-12 educators, students, and members of the St. Louis community. It will begin with a keynote address by the Honorable Michael A. Wolff, Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, who is an avid student of the case and, as Chief Justice, the direct judicial descendant of the man who denied the Scotts their rights at the state level. Among other speakers are Judge Duane Benton of the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Professor Jack Greenberg (Who argued the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954), Paul Finkelman (the senior scholar of the Dred Scott Case, whose writings are the definitive works on the subject), and William Wiecek (an important scholar on Antebellum constitutional slave case). A full list of speakers can be found on the Speakers page. We are also honored by the participation of Lynne Madison Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott.