The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, filed petitions in 1846 to obtain their freedom. The Scotts had a strong case; slaves before them had sued and won their freedom on numerous occasions. Yet when the suit finally came to trial the following year, the St. Louis Circuit Court disallowed some testimony based on a technicality, and the Scotts remained enslaved. Appeals and court reversals continued for the next ten years until Dred Scott’s case finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In a stunning decision, the highest court ruled that no person of African descent ever could be considered a citizen under the context of the Constitution, and therefore the Scotts were not entitled to file a lawsuit in the first place. The Scotts would ultimately gain their freedom—not from the courts, but from their friend Taylor Blow, who bought them and then granted them their freedom. However, free African Americans living in Missouri were required to have a license. In order for the Scotts to obtain licenses, Blow posted these $1,000 bonds stating his obligation to pay if Dred or Harriet was not “of good character and behavior.”