House votes to renounce Dred Scott decision by Missouri Supreme Court

      The Missouri House has again voted to renounce the 1852 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court that denied Scott and his family their freedom.

Representative Raychel Proudie is moved to tears after the House votes unanimously to renounce to the 1852 Dred Scott Decision by the Missouri Supreme Court. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Scott had argued that he, his wife, and his two children were free because they had lived in the state of Illinois, where slavery was not legal.  The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling and said they were still slaves.  The case preceded another suit in which the U.S. Supreme Court also found against Scott and his family.

      Representatives Raychel Proudie (D-Ferguson) and Dottie Bailey (R-Eureka) both filed resolutions to denounce that decision. 

Proudie has often spoken about how for many reasons it is significant for her to be a state representative, including that she is an African American woman and the ancestor of enslaved people.

Representative Dottie Bailey (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “I can’t believe I’m standing here at the mic.  I can’t believe I have an office key that unlocks this door.  Every day I can’t believe it. I am the descendant of slaves, ya’ll. I can’t believe I’m standing here,” said Proudie.  “We say that we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.  I don’t even think that Dred Scott could have conceptualized it because he tried and they told him, ‘No.’”

Bailey said she had followed versions of this measure in previous years, including in 2018 when House Concurrent Resolution 86 was passed by the House.

The bust of Dred Scott in the Hall of Famous Missourians, in the Capitol. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “The federal government, Amendments 13, 14, and 15 came out of that and so that has kind of been recompense and healing for that, but the State of Missouri has never done anything,” said Bailey.  “This is a gesture, yes, but it’s monumental.”

“Dred Scott should never have been compelled to appear before any court of this state or government body to appeal his God-given freedom.  Neither the state nor any person ever had the right to impede upon that.  This state and its government should have risen up to defend Dred Scott and to ensure his freedoms as well as the freedoms of all mankind,” said Bailey.

      Representative Rasheen Aldridge Jr. (D-St. Louis) said the amendment in the House and its counterpart in the Senate have moved forward on the strength of lawmakers from different parties and ethnic backgrounds coming together.

      “We don’t agree on a lot of stuff up here but I think this sends a strong message from us to the state to let them know that we all really, really try to make sure we do what’s right and rewrite some of the wrongs and not be afraid to talk about it,” said Aldridge.  “We have some scary things in our history and we must talk about it.  We must address it and we must rewrite it and do it the correct way.”

      The legislation was written with the help of descendants of Scott.  The House voted 152-0 to send it to the Senate.

House votes to condemn Missouri high court’s 1852 decision in Dred Scott case

The Missouri House has voted, in the presence of one of Dred Scott’s descendants, to denounce the 1852 decision  by the Missouri Supreme Court to deny Scott his freedom.

Representative Mike Moon (right) is joined by Lynne Jackson, the great-great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

In that case, Scott vs. Emerson, Scott sought judgement that he, his wife, and their two children were free because they had lived in the free state of Illinois.  The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in Scott’s favor and said the family was not free.

Scott went on to sue a New York man who succeeded Irene Emerson in ownership of Scott’s family.  That case, Scott vs. Sanford, is better known as it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which also found against Scott.

Ash Grove Republican Mike Moon offered House Concurrent Resolution 86, which condemns the Missouri Court’s ruling.  He did so at the request of Scott’s great-great-great granddaughter, Lynne Jackson, who was in the House when HCR 86 was brought up.

“I was honored to be able to bring this resolution.  I don’t know why they asked me, but Miss Jackson, thank you,” said Moon.  “I’m extremely grateful … to be included in this process to condemn the Missouri court decision of 1852 … for all of us working with the lady from Dred Scott’s ancestry, Lynne Jackson, for abiding by her wishes.”

Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan said the Missouri high court’s ruling, and that of the U.S. Supreme Court after it, made worse more than a century of debate over the status of people of color in the United States, and said for the legislature to pass HCR 86 is an important step.

Representative Shamed Dogan (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“Denouncing that decision, denouncing the words within that decision – the words which helped to, for more than a century after those words were put forth by the Supreme Court as the law of the land, that helped to establish the foundation for Jim Crowe, for all kinds of other injustices done towards not just people of African descent but other people who were treated poorly by this country – we can take one small step by passing this resolution,” said Dogan.

Ferguson Democrat Courtney Allen Curtis offered an amendment to HCR 86 that he said tweaked the wording, at the behest of Jackson, to make sure the resolution reflected her spirit of reconciliation.

“I’m honored to be a part of this because it’s not every day that I move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, but to know that there are people out there that are better than me that are, it makes me look at my actions and what I do and ask if I’m doing the right thing … I’m glad that she did bring this to us,” said Curtis.

Jackson said for the legislature to be willing to say that the Missouri court’s 1852 decision was wrong is all she wanted.

Representative Courtney Allen Curtis (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“The difference is that the U.S. Supreme Court decision was overturned by the 14th Amendment, but Missouri never dealt with the fact that they said times are not as they once were when we made [decisions in trials prior to Scott’s that granted freedom to people who had been slaves], therefore we’re not going to let you have your freedom – it was just a political motion, that’s all it was, to save the institution of slavery – so the fact that they’re just acknowledging that it’s wrong is important,” said Jackson.

“I also think it may have a more spiritual connection.  It might be just the mere fact that sometimes when people say, ‘I’m sorry,’ that everything changes.  You can reestablish relationships.  When people say, ‘I forgive you,’ when they acknowledge they’re wrong, it’s easier to get back and have that relationship with people,” said Jackson.

Jackson thanked Moon and the other representatives that worked and voted for HCR 86.  The House voted 134-2 to send that resolution to the Missouri Senate.

Moon expressed hope that the resolution will pass this year because July 9 is the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment, which overturned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Scott vs. Sanford.