MISSOURI STATE ARCHIVES
Before Dred Scott:
Freedom Suits in Antebellum Missouri
The "Show-Me Standards" and Before Dred Scott
(All seven Social Studies Show-Me Standards are available at https://dese.mo.gov/show-me-standards)
In Social Studies, students in Missouri public schools will acquire a solid foundation which includes knowledge of principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States.
It is important for students to understand the significance of the Constitutions of both the United States and Missouri. It is also important to put the progression of civil rights into the context of time. By studying the original documents of the Freedom Suits of Rachel and Ralph, students gain a wider understanding of the slaves' struggle for emancipation, while also learning to work with original source materials, which serve as visual aids and a point of reference for the students.
In Social Studies, students in Missouri schools will acquire a solid foundation which includes knowledge of continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States, and the world.
Dred Scott earned a place for himself in American History by suing for his freedom, both in the Missouri courts and in the US Supreme Court. Although Scott did not win his freedom, the attention drawn to slavery by his suit was one of many factors which ultimately led the United States into the Civil War. Students will learn that although Dred Scott's case is now the most emphasized freedom suit for ease of relating the complexity of forces leading to war, Scott certainly was not the first to sue for freedom. By studying documentation of the early Freedom Suits in Missouri, such as those of Ralph and Rachel, students further their understanding of the length of the struggle for freedom, and the hardships that came upon those who tried to gain their freedom in the courts. Seeing the original documents and reading the grievances, students can juxtapose different eras in US history, even comparing the shifts in attitude between the time period of Rachel's suit and that of Dred Scott, some ten years later.