To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court decision, Washington University will host a national symposium on “The Dred Scott Case and its Legacy: Race, Law, and the Struggle for Equality,” on March 1-3.
In March, 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Missouri appellate court ruling that denied Harriet and Dred Scott their freedom and went further, declaring that as blacks they had no rights that whites were bound to respect.
“Although a bloody Civil War produced three Constitutional Amendments to reverse that decision, the achievement of full racial, religious, and ethnic equality in this country remains an unfinished project,” says David Konig, Ph.D., one of the symposium organizers and professor of law and history in Arts & Sciences.
“This symposium will ask why and how this is so, 150 years later, and how it might be changed. It seeks to study and resume the struggle that the Scotts began in St. Louis, and to be the focal point for reflection and recommitment to racial equality.”
The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will begin with a keynote address by the Honorable Michael A. Wolff, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, at 4 p.m. on March 1 in Graham Chapel. Wolff will discuss “Race, Law, and the Struggle for Equality: Missouri Law, Politics, and the Dred Scott Case.”
Panel discussions on Friday and Saturday in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom of Anheuser-Busch Hall will examine the case and its legacy, from the Civil War to the present.
Specifically, the panels will discuss how not all the holdings in the Scott decision were overturned by war and amendments, but rather lived to support strict construction and states’ rights decisions. Other panels will examine how contemporary racial disparities have been perpetuated by stereotypes that engender unconscious discrimination, or through ideologies such as that of “white innocence.”
Panel presenters include the nation’s leading scholars on race and the law, and panel commentators include Jack Greenberg, who took part in arguing the case of Brown v. Board of Education for the NAACP. Lynne Madison Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriett Scott also will participate in the symposium.
The final day of the event will feature a session devoted to the theme of “From Scholarship to Citizenship,” where K-12 educators will meet and interact with the panelists on how scholarship can be integrated into school curricula. Following that session, a panel of judges – including several from the Supreme Court of Missouri — will hold a judicial roundtable to discuss the issues raised by the case and the lessons to be learned about the entry of politics into the judicial process.
The symposium will conclude with a reception at the Washington University Library, where the Missouri State Archives will display the original petitions signed by Dred and Harriet Scott to commence the suit.
This symposium qualifies for 13 hours of MCLE credit.