By Dmitri Mehlhorn | The 74
“In the long struggle to make the United States more just and perfect, court majorities have made some horrific mistakes. When that happens, the burden falls on dissents to provide hope for the future arc of the moral universe.
Such dissents often come from the most distinguished jurists. Benjamin Curtis, for instance, was the first formally trained lawyer on the United States Supreme Court. In 1857, he dissented from the Dred Scott case that eviscerated the civil rights of African Americans, arguing that: ‘free persons, descended from Africans held in slavery, were citizens of the United States.’ John Harlan dissented in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) with the following famous lines:
‘Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens…The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.'”