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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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The Dred Scott Decision "Cannot Stand"

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave and leader of the anti-slavery movement in the North. This excerpt is from an address he delivered to the Anniversary of the American Abolition Society held in New York, May 14, 1857.

Thomas Jefferson Decries Slavery in a Draft of the Declaration of Independence

The passage below was included in Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances against King George III of England. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, later wrote in his autobiography that this passage [...]

Chief Justice Taney's Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered two key questions: did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African-Americans, and could Congress prohibit slavery in new states? The first excerpt below addresses [...]

Anti-Federalists Oppose Slavery Provisions in Constitution

Slavery was one of the most divisive issues in the debates over whether or not to ratify the Constitution. Although the constitution banned the importation of slaves beginning in 1808, it did not restrict the continued use and ownership of slaves, [...]

Timeline of Compromises over Slavery

From the nation's very inception, the existence of slavery stood in glaring contrast to the ideals of liberty and justice expressed in the preamble to the Constitution. The Constitution itself protected the institution of slavery (while never [...]