American slave court cases

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

1781Brom and Bett v. AshleyBerkshire County Court of Common PleasSlaves 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.
1781Quock 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.
1783Commonwealth v. JennisonMassachusetts Supreme Judicial CourtJustice 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]
1806Hudgins v. WrightVirginia Supreme CourtJackey 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.
1818Harry v. Decker & HopkinsSupreme Court of MississippiDecker'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.
1820Polly v. LasselleSupreme Court of IndianaIndiana 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.
1830North Carolina v. MannSupreme Court of North CarolinaSlaveowners were ruled to have absolute authority over their slaves and could not be found guilty of committing violence against them.
1834Rachel v. WalkerSupreme Court of MissouriA 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.
1838Hinds v. BrazealleSupreme Court of MississippiDenied 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
1841United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner AmistadSupreme Court of the United StatesAs 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.
1842Prigg v. PennsylvaniaSupreme Court of the United StatesOverturned 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.
1851Strader v. GrahamSupreme Court of the United StatesThe 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.
1853Holmes v. FordOregon Territorial Supreme CourtGranted 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.
1852Lemmon v. New YorkSuperior Court of the City of New YorkGranted freedom to slaves who were brought into New York by their Virginia slave owners, while in transit to Texas.
1857Dred Scott v. SanfordSupreme Court of the United StatesPeople 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.
1859Ableman v. BoothSupreme Court of the United Statesheld 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.
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