Lea VanderVelde’s essay on “The Dred Scott Case as an American Family Saga” humanizes one of the most infamous Supreme Court decisions in American history. In this excerpt, VanderVelde, a law professor at the University of Iowa, describes how the entire Scott family –Dred, Harriet and their daughters, Eliza and Lizzie– contributed to the original motivation for filing the case in St. Louis Circuit Court in 1846. You can read VanderVelde’s full essay inside the print edition of Volume 25 of the OAH Magazine of History (April 2011) or online via Oxford Journals.

Study Questions
1. What can you learn about the Scott family members from the records connected to this essay that helps explain the origins of the Dred Scott case?

2. Why is it important to learn about people and their biographies when studying major historical events?