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Dred Scott Timeline

In 1857, just a few years before the Emancipation Proclamation, a slave named Samuel Dred Scott lost a fight for his freedom. 

For almost ten years, Scott had struggled to regain his freedom--arguing that since he lived with his owner--John Emerson--in a free state, he should be free.

However, after a long battle, the United States Supreme Court ruled that since Scott was not a citizen, he could not sue in a federal court.

Also, as an enslaved person, as property, he and his family had no rights to sue in a court of law either.

1795: Samuel Dred Scott is born in Southhampton, Va.

1832: Scott is sold to John Emerson, a United States army physician.

1834: Scott and Emerson move to the free state of Illinois.

1836: Scott marries Harriet Robinson, a slave of another army doctor.

1836 to 1842: Harriet gives birth to the couples two daughters, Eliza and Lizzie.

1843: The Scotts move to Missouri with the Emerson family.

1843: Emerson dies. Scott attempts to purchase his freedom from Emersons widow, Irene. However, Irene Emerson refuses.

April 6, 1846: Dred and Harriet Scott allege that their home in a free state granted them freedom. This petition is filed in the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

June 30, 1847: In the case, Scott v. Emerson, the defendant, Irene Emerson wins. The presiding judge, Alexander Hamilton provides Scott with a retrial.

January 12, 1850: At the second trial, the verdict is in Scotts favor. As a result, Emerson files an appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court.

March 22, 1852: The Missouri Supreme Court reverses the lower courts decision.

The early 1850s: Arba Crane becomes employed by the law office of Roswell Field.

Scott is working as a janitor at the office and meets Crane. Crane and Scott decide to take the case to the Supreme Court.

June 29, 1852: Hamilton, who is not only a judge but an abolitionist, denies the petition by the Emerson family attorney to return the Scotts to their owner. At this time, Irene Emerson is living in Massachusetts, a free state.

November 2, 1853: Scotts