Humanities › History & Culture Timeline of Samuel "Dred" Scott Share Flipboard Email Print Public Domain History & Culture African American History Major Figures and Events The Black Freedom Struggle Important Figures Civil Rights The Institution of Slavery & Abolition Segregation and Jim Crow American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Femi Lewis African American History Expert M.S.Ed, Secondary Education, St. John's University M.F.A., Creative Writing, City College of New York B.A., English, City College of New York Femi Lewis is a writer and educator who specializes in African American history topics, including enslavement, activism, and the Harlem Renaissance. our editorial process Femi Lewis Updated July 28, 2018 In 1857, just a few years before the Emancipation Proclamation, an enslaved man 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 enslaver—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, an enslaved man of another army doctor. 1836 to 1842 Harriet gives birth to the couple's 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 Emerson's 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 Scott's favor. As a result, Emerson files an appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court. March 22, 1852 The Missouri Supreme Court reverses the lower court's decision. The early 1850's 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 a North American 19-century Black activist, denies the petition by the Emerson family attorney to return the Scotts to their enslaver. At this time, Irene Emerson is living in Massachusetts, a free state. November 2, 1853 Scott's lawsuit is filed in the United States Circuit Court for Missouri. Scott believes that the federal court is responsible for this case because Scott is suing John Sanford, the new enslasver of the Scott family. May 15, 1854 Scott's case is fought in court. The court rules for John Sanford and is appealed to the Supreme Court. February 11, 1856 The first argument is presented to the United States Supreme Court. May 1856 Lawrence, Kan. is attacked by proponents of enslavement. John Brown kills five men. Senator Charles Sumner, who argued Supreme Court cases with Robert Morris Sr, is beaten by a Southern congressman over Sumner's anti-enslavement statements. December 15, 1856 The second argument of the case is presented before the Supreme Court. March 6, 1857 The United States Supreme Court decides that freed African Americans are not citizens. As a result, they cannot sue in federal court. Also, enslaved African Americans are property and as a result, have no rights. Also, the ruling found that Congress cannot prohibit enslavement from spreading into the western territories. May 1857 Following the controversial trial, Irene Emerson remarried and gave the Scott family to another family of enslavers, the Blows. Peter Blow granted the Scotts their freedom. June 1857 North American 19th-century Black activist and formerly enslaved person acknowledged the importance of the Dred Scott decision at the anniversary of the American Abolition Society through a speech. 1858 Scott dies of tuberculosis. 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates begin. Much of the debates focus on the Dred Scott case and its impact on enslavement. April 1860 Democratic Party splits. Southern delegations leave the convention after their petition to include a national enslavement code based on Dred Scott is rejected. November 6, 1860 Lincoln wins the election. March 4, 1861 Lincoln is sworn as president of the United States by Chief Justice Roger Taney. Taney wrote the Dred Scott opinion. Soon after, the Civil War begins. 1997 Dred Scott and Harriet Robinson are inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.