Freedom Suits Memorial Project
The Freedom Suits Memorial Project is dedicated to 400 courageous slaves who filed suit in Missouri Courts for their freedom and were assisted by lawyers working without pay.
The Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee announced that they are partnering with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) to unveil a 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture. This unveiling will be held on Law Day next year - May 2, 2022.
The sculpture will be placed at the Civil Courts Building downtown, aligning with the Gateway Mall and the Old Courthouse, where most of these suits were tried.
This project was inspired by many who told their account and experiences suing for their freedom, but none are more famous than plaintiffs Harriett and Dredd Scott.
The Scotts filed suit 57 years after the Emancipation Proclamation - and it was of course a challenge for a slave to get to court. Still, once there, these slaves had a legal precedent "Once Free, Always Free."
Under this theory, a slave who had been moved to a free state or territory for any length of time then returned to a slave state or territory could sue for his or her freedom. In the St. Louis region, a group of anti-slavery lawyers worked hard to extend this legal theory.
They hoped to abolish slavery without a violent struggle by taking these matters to court. These lawyers freed many slaves, including Harriett and Dredd Scott. However, the Scotts had a more difficult time suing for their freedom.
The Scotts original owner had died while their case was pending, so the owner's widow and her brother appealed the St. Louis verdict, which went all the way up to the Supreme Court.
The decision that was made is considered the worst in the history of the Supreme Court. It held that all people of African ancestry — slaves and those who were free — could never become citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in federal court.
The court also ruled that the federal government did not have the power to prohibit slavery in its territories.
To donate to the Freedom Suits Memorial, click here.