In the progression of American people toward freedom, the contributions of one person whose life was central to that struggle have long been ignored: Harriet Robinson Scott, "Mrs. Dred Scott."
Dred Scott v. Sandfordn1 stands in infamy in American constitutional law and the history of the Supreme Court. The Court denied Dred Scott's assertion of freedom in sweeping language.n2 Most work on this famous case focuses on its conventionally significant features: the case itself, the legal records, the judges and lawyers, their ideologies and biographies, and the significance of the case in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in the Civil War, in the Reconstruction Amendments and in the Reconstruction Court.n3 No one has focused on the eye of the hurricane: the quiet, silent family members whose lives were at stake in that litigation.n4 Dred Scott, the named plaintiff, died in 1858. Although a friend purchased Dred's freedom for him after his cause was lost, he never saw the Jubilee, Emancipation, or the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Harriet Robinson Scott, his lawfully wedded wife, did. She brought her own case for freedom, a case that was submerged in his. She lived through the protracted litigation, the fame and infamy that the case brought, the purchase of freedom, the birth and raising of two children, her husband's death, and finally, the Jubilee. Nonetheless, conventional history has relegated her life to a footnote.