American slave court cases

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The following is a list of court cases in the United States concerning slavery.

Date Case Court Ruling
1781 Brom and Bett v. Ashley Berkshire County Court of Common Pleas Slaves Brom and Bett (Elizabeth Freeman) were freed on the basis that the Massachusetts constitution provided that "all men are born free and equal." This case was a precedent for the following one.
1781 Quock Walker v. Jennison Worcester County Court of Common Pleas Jennison's slave, Quock Walker, was found to be a freedman on the basis that slavery was contrary to the Bible and the Massachusetts Constitution.
1783 Commonwealth v. Jennison Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice William Cushing instructs jury that "slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence."[1]
1806 Hudgins v. Wright Virginia Supreme Court Jackey Wright and her two children were freed based on her claim of maternal descent from Native American women. Indian slavery had been prohibited in Virginia since 1705.
1818 Harry v. Decker & Hopkins Supreme Court of Mississippi Decker's slave Harry was freed, and slaves residing in the Northwest Territory become free as per the Ordinance of 1787, and may assert their rights in court.
1820 Polly v. Lasselle Supreme Court of Indiana Indiana gave freedom to blacks in the state who had been held as slaves in the territory prior to Indiana's state constitutional ban on slavery.
1830 North Carolina v. Mann Supreme Court of North Carolina Slaveowners were ruled to have absolute authority over their slaves and could not be found guilty of committing violence against them.
1834 Rachel v. Walker Supreme Court of Missouri A freedom suit of Rachel, a slave who sued for freedom from John Walker in the Supreme Court of Missouri, and won based on his having held her in the free state of Illinois.
1838 Hinds v. Brazealle Supreme Court of Mississippi Denied a deed of manumission in Ohio for a citizen of Mississippi's mixed-race son and his slave mother, because it was against Mississippi statutes (which required an act by the state legislature), and was considered fraud
1841 United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad Supreme Court of the United States As the Africans in questions were never legal property, they were not criminals and had rightfully defended themselves in mutiny. They were unlawfully kidnapped, and the Court directed the President to transport them in return to Africa.
1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania Supreme Court of the United States Overturned the conviction of slavecatcher Edward Prigg in Pennsylvania based on the ruling that Federal law (which provides for recovery of fugitive slaves) supersedes State law.
1851 Strader v. Graham Supreme Court of the United States The status of three slaves who traveled from Kentucky to the free states of Indiana and Ohio depended on Kentucky slave law rather than Ohio law, which had abolished slavery.
1853 Holmes v. Ford Oregon Territorial Supreme Court Granted freedom to a family of slaves who had been brought to Oregon with their master from Missouri, as this action violated the Organic Laws of Oregon, which did not allow slavery.
1852 Lemmon v. New York Superior Court of the City of New York Granted freedom to slaves who were brought into New York by their Virginia slave owners, while in transit to Texas.
1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court of the United States People of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not included under the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
1859 Ableman v. Booth Supreme Court of the United States held that state courts cannot issue rulings that contradict the decisions of federal courts, in this case overturning the unconstitutionality ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

See also


  1. "The Quock Walker Case". Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ( Retrieved October 4, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>