ST. LOUIS (AP) — Efforts are underway to raise $1 million for a downtown St. Louis monument to honor the hundreds of slaves who filed lawsuits for their freedom, leading up to the landmark Dred Scott case that pushed the U.S. closer to the Civil War.
The goal is to unveil the Freedom Suits Memorial in July 2021 on the east lawn of the Civil Courts Building.
Scott’s case included Harriet Scott, his wife. A life-size bronze statue of the Scotts was erected in 2012 just outside the Old Courthouse on its west side.
In an 1857 decision on Scott’s case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that black people were not citizens and did not have the right to sue, angering anti-slavery advocates.
Attorney Paul Venker, chairman of the Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee, called those who sued “change agents” who altered the way people thought about slavery in the U.S.
The 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture by artist Preston Jackson will depict an enslaved woman inside the courthouse on a witness stand arguing for her freedom. They chose a woman because at the time, the law was if a mother was deemed free then so were her children.
“I feel it is imperative that the descendants of slaves see themselves as strong people, as survivors, and this sculpture will certainly send that important message,” Jackson said.