Ashcroft announces program on St. Louis freedom suits

ST. LOUIS, Mo. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft today announced a Thursday Evening Speaker Series program examining St. Louis slaves’ pursuit of freedom through the courts.

Dr. Kelly Kennington will discuss her book, In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America, in which she describes how enslaved individuals in St. Louis challenged the legal and social systems that held them in forced servitude.

The program will be held in the Interpretive Center of the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center, the location of the Secretary of State’s State Archives, on Thursday, February 21 at 7 p.m.

In her book, Kennington draws upon the case files of more than 300 enslaved individuals who, like Dred Scott and his family, sued for freedom in St. Louis. Kennington offers an in-depth look at how daily interactions, relationships and arguments presented in court shaped and reshaped legal debates and attitudes over slavery and freedom in St. Louis.

Join us as Kennington discusses these historic suits, placing them in a broader national context and shedding light on the ways in which they influenced the national conversation on slavery.

The Missouri State Archives is the official repository for state documents of permanent historic value and is located at 600 West Main Street in Jefferson City. All programs at the Archives are free of charge and open to the public, with seating available on a first-come, first served basis.

For more information on this and other programming at the Archives, contact Tracy Wegman, (573) 526-5296 or