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Unpublished Paper
No Right to Respect: Dred Scott and the Southern Honor Culture
ExpressO (2007)
  • Cecil J. Hunt
Article Abstract: No Right to Respect: Dred Scott and the Southern Honor Culture; by Professor Cecil J. Hunt, II This article reflects on the 150th anniversary of the infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, 19 How. (60 U.S.) 393 (1857) in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of slavery. This essay is part of the considerable national effort by all of the constituencies in the American legal community to reflect on this infamous case and consider the distance the nation has come since it was decided as well as its continuing legacy on the contemporary struggle for racial equality. This essay was presented at a recent conference at Washington University in Saint Louis where some of the leading national scholars on racial jurisprudence gathered to reflect on the history and significance of this decision, since national disagreement over this decision was a major factor that led to the outbreak of the Civil War. In this case the Court held that slavery was constitutional because it was consistent with the intent of the framers and because black people were “a subordinate and inferior class of beings who…whether emancipated or not…had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” This article argues that when Chief Justice Taney, writing for the majority of the Court, wrote those infamous words he was also saying that blacks had no right to be respected by whites. This essay is the first scholarly effort to analyze Dred Scott in terms of the implications that may be drawn from its roots in the values and dynamics of the honor culture of the Old South where respect and honor were fundamental organizing principals. This essay concludes that although this decision is no longer controlling authority, the racial ideology of white disrespect for blacks as first articulated in this case, is a continuing dynamic of contemporary race relations and has exerted a powerful influence on virtually every aspect of America’s racial discourse for the past 150 years. One of the principal legacies of Dred Scott is the way these racial ideologies have insidiously sabotaged and undermined many of the national efforts to shake off the racial shackles of the past and achieve meaningful racial equality in America.
  • Supreme Court,
  • Civil Rights,
  • Constitutional Law
Publication Date
August, 2007
Citation Information
Cecil J. Hunt. "No Right to Respect: Dred Scott and the Southern Honor Culture" ExpressO (2007)
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