Freedom Suits Memorial unveiled in downtown St. Louis

Freedom Suits statue
Freedom Suits statue(KMOV)
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – The Freedom Suits Memorial was unveiled at a ceremony in downtown St. Louis on Monday evening.

The memorial is a 14-foot statue that sits atop an 8,000-pound black granite base. The memorial honors the hundreds of slaves who tried to fight for their freedom in the St. Louis courts in 1857, before the start of the Civil War. The statue is etched with the names of the enslaved plaintiffs in the suit.

“This statue is the monument to truth, it’s a monument to things that actually happened,” St. Louis City Circuits Judge David Mason said. “It’s a monument to what can happen if you make sure the doors of the courts remain open to all.”

Mason, along with several other people who worked to make the monument happen, spoke at the ceremony about the importance of the statue. He also said the Freedom Suits that lasted nearly 60 years are a testament to the courage of those who fought.

Valeree Cole was on her way to work when she saw the large crowd gathering. She walked across the street, found a program, and decided to take a seat.

“I’m glad to see everyone is coming together and realizing it took a long time coming, but it’s here now,” Cole said.

The significance of this moment was not lost on Lynne Jackson. Jackson is Dred and Harriet Scott’s great-great-granddaughter.

She said she wants St. Louis to be the epicenter of reconciliation.

“For me, it’s like all of the people who look at Dred and Harriet can now say, ‘Wait a minute, I can find my ancestors and see what they did,” Jackson said. “It’s a wonderful thing to do because of all the wonderful surprises that come out of it. These were incredible people just like the Scotts.”

News 4 asked Jackson how she thinks Dred and Harriot would react to the city erecting this statue in the heart of downtown.

“I think they would have gone, ‘What on earth are you doing?” Jackson said with a smile. “They were humble and there wasn’t an egotistical bone I found in my research. They would be pleased because they would recognize it wasn’t in vain.”

As Mason stared at the statue Monday, he said St. Louis’ message to the rest of the country is clear.

“If you work together, you can in fact make things better. If the courts are open to all, we can ensure freedom for all. It does not have to be a fight. It is not a fight,” Mason said

Mason said the crowd showcased what makes St. Louis special, diverse and united.

“That was my dream. When I saw that crowd, I truly wanted to cry. St. Louis really showed up. That touched me more than anything else,” Mason shared.

The statue was designed by world-renowned sculptor Preston Jackson. It was funded through private donations.

Judge Mason’s next project is looking at how the Dred Scott decision led to black laws, codes, and segregation decisions.

He said one thing people don’t realize is after the Civil War, the Supreme Court writings endorsing slavery remained on the books. He said he hopes today’s Supreme Court will make the decision to finally set it aside.