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Bipartisan push in legislature denounces Missouri’s Dred Scott case decision 


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Raychel Proudie is taking the lead on a bipartisan push to officially denounce the Missouri Supreme Court’s denial of Dred Scott’s freedom in the 1850s.

“Missouri’s bicentennial is a special, important, and opportune moment to denounce the most egregious Supreme Court decision in our nation’s history,” Rep. Raychel Proudie said. “Missouri’s role in this decision cannot and should not be ignored. This body has a responsibility to Americans of African ancestry living in Missouri to disavow the decision the courts reached nearly 170 years ago.” 

State Rep. Dottie Bailey

Proudie presented a resolution to denounce the decision in the Special Committee on Urban Issues, which she chairs, on Wednesday. GOP Rep. Dottie Bailey filed an identical resolution alongside Proudie this session, and Sen. Steven Roberts has his own version on deck in the upper chamber. 

Bailey said she hoped to see a bipartisan push to pass the resolutions. 

“Amidst all of the racial strife of American history and especially given its resurgence to the forefront in the past few years, now is the time to stand as a body and denounce these horrendous decisions that are an unfortunate part of our past,” said Bailey.

Dred Scott and wife Harriett sued for freedom for their family in 1840, given that the family had been enslaved for several years in states that had abolished slavery before returning to Missouri. Missouri’s circuit court ruled in the Scotts’ favor, but the state’s Supreme Court overturned the decision in 1857, opining that slave states had no obligation to acknowledge the laws of free states. 

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the verdict, denying any person of African descent citizenship under the U.S. Constitution regardless of enslavement or liberation. Scott was eventually granted freedom and worked in St. Louis until his death in 1858. 

Missouri abolished slavery with the ratification of its second constitution in 1865.

“As a state, we need to confront our state’s history,” Proudie said. “We cannot reconcile our past with what Missouri should be — a land of freedom and equality for all — until we officially and decisively rebuke these dangerous attitudes that are antithetical to the founding tenets of our nation.”

This story has been updated to correct the year of Missouri’s second constitution. 

Cover image: State Rep. Raychel Proudie