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Jun 21, 2022

Paul Venker Comments on Freedom Suits Memorial Unveiling in Downtown St. Louis

On June 20, a ceremony was held on the eastern plaza of the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis to unveil the Freedom Suits Memorial.

The memorial honors courageous slave plaintiffs who sued for their freedom in the decades leading up to the Civil War and the judges, lawyers and jurors who assisted them. Collectively referred to as freedom suits, Dred and Harriet Scott are likely the most famous plaintiffs.

The centerpiece of the memorial, designed by artist Preston Jackson, is a fourteen-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture standing atop a black granite base etched with the names of all the St. Louis freedom suit plaintiffs.

“This moving memorial compels us to reflect upon how the least powerful among us, exercising what imperfect legal rights they had, initiated what can only be described as nation-altering change,” said Paul Venker, Baker Sterchi attorney and chair of the Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee. “We honor these African Americans who chose the Rule of Law, and the lawyers and judges who embraced the Spirit of Justice to help them.”

Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré served as keynote speaker at the unveiling. Also speaking to the hundreds gathered for the event were Lynne Jackson, great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott; St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones; and Judge David Mason, who first conceived the memorial.