MINNEAPOLIS (May 8, 2014) — Over 300 Minneapolis Public School students will have a unique opportunity to participate in the “Open Doors to Federal Courts” program sponsored by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on Friday, May 16.
This year’s event will focus on Dred Scott v. Sanford, a landmark Supreme Court case from 1857, commonly referred to as the Dred Scott Decision.
Scott, a slave, sued for his freedom and that of his family. Scott was unsuccessful in his claim but it is believed that the case significantly influenced the election of Abraham Lincoln, an opponent of slavery, and further divided the North and South, taking the United States closer than ever to Civil War. Eventually, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution overrode the Supreme Court ruling.
On Friday, May 16, Minneapolis Public School students will spend a half-day at William Mitchell College of Law, where Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis, Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Judge Kevin G. Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Judge Lyonel Norris of the Hennepin County District Court, Judge Edward Wilson of the Ramsey County District Court and other prominent members of the Twin Cities legal community will address students and answer questions about the Dred Scott case and discuss their career paths.
The event will also include a performance of a living history re-enactment of the lives of Dred and Harriet Scott that will tell the story of Dred Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom in 1947. Scott’s 11‑year legal battle became a famed test case, and although he remained a slave, the outcome motivated the anti-slavery movement and contributed to the eruption of the American Civil War in 1861. Rounding out the program will be Lynne Jackson, great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott who will talk about the legacy of courage and freedom left by her great-great grandparents who met at Fort Snelling.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about a seminal case in our country’s history,” said James Burroughs, executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. “This Supreme Court case changed the course of our country’s history and students will get a deeper understanding about the decision and it’s outcomes. We thank the judges and those in the legal community who are connecting with our students and organizing the events.”
Leading up to the May 16 event, students will learn about the case from former Training Specialist for the U.S. District Court Charlie Cree and members of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL), Hispanic Bar Association, Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association and Urban Debate Program. Lawyers from these organizations will visit students in their U.S. History and Government classes.
Judge Donovan W. Frank provides leadership to Minnesota’s Open Doors to Federal Courts Program. Open Doors is a national program, welcoming students into local federal courthouses across the country with the goal of bringing high school students, teachers, judges, court staff and lawyers together to enhance public knowledge and understanding of the federal court system. The program targets high school juniors and seniors through their civics or US government classes.
Judge Frank stated, “This is the fifteenth year that the District of Minnesota has sponsored the Open Doors program. It is especially significant that we are working with the Minneapolis Public School District this year, the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Our goal is to encourage inner city students to pursue careers in the justice system. In addition, we aim to remind the diverse student body of the Minneapolis public school system of the nation’s commitment to equal justice and to provide hope to all students that they will receive the promise of the Constitution and equal justice under law.”