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Scott descendant to keynote at RootsTech 2024

There’s often reason for a bit of skepticism over the selection of most keynoters at RootsTech, the huge annual genealogy conference in Salt Lake City.

It’s often more a matter of celebrity than genealogy or family history.

But the announcement today of one of the keynoters for the 2024 RootsTech has The Legal Genealogist dancing in the aisles.

History, family, stories of America’s past — come to life, in the person of Lynne M. Jackson, author, educator and lifelong St. Louis resident, revealed today as the first announced keynoter for the upcoming conference, scheduled for February 29 through March 2, 2024.1

And the living breathing legacy of one of the turning points in American history.

Lynne M. Jackson

Lynne M. Jackson — who will keynote on Friday, March 1, 2024 — is President and founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation.

Yes, that Dred Scott.

The Dred Scott who — with his wife Harriet and their two children Eliza and Lizzie — was at the center of the 1857 decision generally regarded as the single worst decision ever of the United States Supreme Court: the decision that no person of African descent, whose ancestors were brought to America enslaved, could be a citizen of the United States, entitled to the privileges of citizenship including the right to sue in court for recognition of freedom.2 The decision was worse than that: it also held that longstanding bars on the spread of slavery into the territories were unlawful.3

The case history is astounding. The National Archives describes it this way:

In 1846, an enslaved Black man named Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, sued for their freedom in St. Louis Circuit Court. They claimed that they were free due to their residence in a free territory where slavery was prohibited.

The odds were in their favor. They had lived with their enslaver, an army surgeon, at Fort Snelling, then in the free Territory of Wisconsin. The Scotts’ freedom could be established on the grounds that they had been held in bondage for extended periods in a free territory and were then returned to a slave state. Courts had ruled this way in the past.

However, what appeared to be a straightforward lawsuit between two private parties became an 11-year legal struggle that culminated in one of the most notorious decisions ever issued by the United States Supreme Court. Scott lost his case, which worked its way through the Missouri state courts; he then filed a new federal suit which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

On its way to the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott case grew in scope and significance as slavery became the single most explosive issue in American politics. By the time the case reached the high court, it had come to have enormous political implications for the entire nation.

On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney read the majority opinion of the Court, which stated that enslaved people were not citizens of the United States and, therefore, could not expect any protection from the federal government or the courts. The opinion also stated that Congress had no authority to ban slavery from a federal territory. This decision moved the nation a step closer to the Civil War.

The decision of Scott v. Sandford, considered by many legal scholars to be the worst ever rendered by the Supreme Court, was overturned by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and declared all persons born in the United States to be citizens of the United States.4

So… what happened to Dred and Harriet Scott? To their two children named with them in the court papers? What’s the significance of the case, the history, this family?

This keynote speaker will share with us details of the Scotts’ personal and family history that have not previously been known.

We’re going to hear about it from a very personal perspective.

Because Lynne M. Jackson is the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott.

Don’t miss this keynote. Friday, March 1, 2024.

In person and online.

At RootsTech 2024.

I can’t wait.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Living legacy of Dred Scott,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 30 Oct 2023).


  1. No, that’s not a typo. 2024 is a leap year.
  2. See Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857).
  3. Ibid., at 452 (“the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned, is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void”).
  4. Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857),” Milestone Documents, U.S. National Archives ( : accessed 30 Oct 2023).
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