Dred Scott v. Sandford: The African-American Self-Identity Through Constitutional Hermeneutics
Staggers, Elijah T.
In Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Roger Taney spoke for the majority of the United States Supreme Court to declare that Blacks were not constituent members of the American political sovereignty, but rather they were “beings of an inferior order, altogether unfit to associate with the white race” and they “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Through engaging in a critical inquiry of constitutional hermeneutics, Blacks looked to the Constitution to deduce their collective identity. However, when they looked in the constitutional mirror, they saw a broken reflection. By evaluating the existential dichotomy of the African-American self-identity revealed in the responses to the Dred Scott decision, this research argues that the African-American self-identity was broken by the Supreme Court’s declaration that they were neither citizens nor people under the Constitution; however, in the face of the Dred Scott decision, the African-American self-identity used the very document which denied their right to exist, to galvanize a unique identity capturing their oppression, and the hope to realize their deprived liberty.
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