The three most important Supreme Court Justices before the Civil War—Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger B. Taney and Associate Justice Joseph Story—upheld the institution of slavery in ruling after ruling. These opinions cast a shadow over the Court and the legacies of these men, but historians have rarely delved deeply into the personal and political ideas and motivations they held.

In this livestream, Professor Paul Finkelman, author of Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court, discusses each justice’s proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to Black freedom, and the incentives created by circumstances in his private life.