Today in History: A Court Decision that Led to the Civil War

In 1857, the Supreme Court handed down its “Dred Scott decision,” barring slaves and their descendants from becoming citizens
A copy of a photo taken in the 1800s of slave Dred Scott, whose fight for freedom prompted the historic Supreme Court decision.
A copy of a photo taken in the 1800s of slave Dred Scott, whose fight for freedom prompted the historic Supreme Court decision. AP Photo/The Southeast Missourian

March 6, 1820: President James Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri to the Union as a slave state, but Maine and part of Massachusetts as a free state.

March 6, 1857: In a decision that helped lead to the Civil War, the Supreme Court, in its famous “Dred Scott Decision,” ruled that neither slaves — nor their descendants — could ever become U.S. citizens. The decision is also acknowledged for the influential role it played in altering the national political landscape: It launched Abraham Lincoln’s national political career and ultimately allowed for his election.

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