• Dred Scott was a slave in the United States who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and their two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case of 1857, popularly known as "the Dred Scott Decision."

• Having failed to purchase his freedom, in 1846 Scott filed legal suit in St Louis Circuit Court through the help of a local lawyer. Historical details about why Scott sought recourse in the court system are unclear. The Scott v. Emerson case was tried in 1847 in the federal-state courthouse in St. Louis. The judgment went against Scott, but having found evidence of hearsay, the judge called for a retrial.

• After various retrials and a n appeal to the Supreme Court, The United States Supreme Court decided 7–2 against Scott, finding that neither he nor any other person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the United States, and therefore Scott could not bring suit in federal court under diversity of citizenship rules.

• The Scott decision increased tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in both North and South, further pushing the country towards the brink of civil war. Ultimately, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution settled the issue of Black citizenship via Section 1 of that Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside..."

• The ruling of the court helped catalyze sentiment for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the three constitutional amendments ratified shortly after the Civil War: the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, abolishing slavery, granting former slaves citizenship, and conferring citizenship to anyone born in the United States.