This past Juneteenth, Vince Taormina attended the unveiling of the Freedom Suits Memorial in front of St. Louis Courts.
This past Juneteenth, Vince Taormina attended the unveiling of the Freedom Suits Memorial in front of the Circuit Court Building in downtown St. Louis.
The Freedom Suits Memorial is dedicated to about 400 enslaved persons who fought for their freedom in the courts. During slavery, Missouri courts recognized that free Black Americans from other states to remain free in Missouri. Unfortunately, this law was not always followed and many formerly free Americans found themselves enslaved once again when they came to Missouri. The most famous example of this is Dred Scott.
These Americans sued in St. Louis for their freedom under Missouri law at the time. This was an incredibly brave act since there was the potential for violent backlash by their supposed "masters." Not only that, but lawyers and jurors at the time (all of whom were white men), risked reputational ruin for taking on these cases. Incredibly, however, Black Americans won their freedom under the law over 100 times.
While most people remember Dred Scott, the extent of the freedom suits that took place in St. Louis was forgotten until the early-2000s. It was discovered that for more than 60 years prior to the end of slavery that St. Louis was the most active venue for these freedom suits.
As a result, a commission of judges and attorneys in the area began the Freedom Suits Memorial project to celebrate the courage and tenacity of these plaintiffs and their lawyers. This Memorial is a testament to their bravery and stands as a shining new commemoration of our American ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all.