“We think they [people of African ancestry] are . . . not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.” 

Chief Justice Taney, speaking for the majority

This case explores the legal concept of due process.

In 1834, Dred Scott, an enslaved person, was purchased in Missouri and then brought to Illinois, a free (non-slave) state. He later moved with his enslaver to present-day Minnesota, where slavery had been recently prohibited, and then back to Missouri. When his enslaver died, Scott sued the widow to whom he was left, claiming he was no longer an enslaved person because he had become free after living in a free state. At a time when the country was in deep conflict over slavery, the Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott was not a “citizen of the state” so it had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the majority opinion also stated that Dred Scott was not a free man.

This section is for teachers.

Use the links below to access:

  • student versions of the activities in .PDF and Word formats
  • how to differentiate and adapt the materials
  • how to scaffold the activities
  • how to extend the activities
  • technology suggestions
  • answers to select activities  

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About the Case

Learning Activities

The Case

After the Case

Teacher Resources

Teaching Strategies Used

Landmark Cases Glossary

The LandmarkCases.org glossary compiles all of the important vocab terms from case materials. It is provided as a view-only Google Sheet.


Planning Time and Activities

If you have one day . . .

  • Begin with the background summary and questions (•••, ••, •). Use the Tracing Dred Scott's Travels activity to help students understand the facts of the case.
  • Complete the Classifying Arguments Activity. Discuss which arguments the students find most convincing.
  • For homework, have students read the Key Excerpts from the Opinion and answer the questions. Follow-up the next day by reviewing the questions with students.

If you have two days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first day.
  • On the second day, discuss the majority opinion and questions. Compare the Key Excerpts from the Majority Opinion with the Key Excerpts from the Dissenting Opinion.
  • Complete the Abraham Lincoln Speech Analysis and Frederick Douglass Speech Analysis Activities.
  • For homework, have students complete the Visit Dred Scott's Memorial activity.

If you have three days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first and second days (excluding Day 2 homework).
  • On the third day, complete the Editorial Analysis Activity 
  • Next, complete the Visit Dred Scott's Memorial Activity

If you have four days . . .

  • Complete the activities for the first, second, and third days.
  • Complete Applying Precedents Activity: United States v. Won Kim Ark (1898)
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