Dred Scott Heritage Foundation highlights local history, fight for freedom

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:54 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 8, 2023 at 9:10 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Stories like that of Dred and Harriet Scott and their 11-year fight for freedom will be highlighted at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. A multimillion-dollar renovation is currently underway at the historic location.

Many names played a role in Dred Scott’s story. His legacy lives on through the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in Chesterfield, and Lynne Jackson years of research.

“There are over 50 books that showed the history of Dred Scott here,” Jackson said.

She shares a strong family tie to Scott. She is his great, great-granddaughter.

“We always grew up knowing that we were relatives of Dred Scott, and it was something I was proud of,” she said.

Jackson said she and her three siblings didn’t quite understand the importance of being Scott’s relatives when they were kids. She started studying his life in 1995. That opened up a whole new world for her.

Scott’s story started in Virginia in 1799. His original owner ended up in St. Louis and sold him to an Army surgeon. That surgeon took him into free territory, where he met and married his wife, Harriet Robinson. They lived together and ended up back in St. Louis.

Scott’s owner died, and he and his wife wanted their freedom. But the owner’s widow would not give it to them. Scott and his wife then sued for their freedom, which they learned to do under the law.

An 11-year journey ensued at the Old Courthouse on April 6, 1846. It went on until March 6, 1857, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Scott was not a citizen and had no right to sue for freedom in federal court.

Dred and Harriet remained slaves until 1857 when they were freed by their enslavers. Dred died a year later.

Fast forward more than 170 years after that ruling, a pair of bills denouncing the 1852 decision passed unanimously in the Missouri House in 2021. Jackson said she feels it’s a privilege to carry on his legacy through the foundation, its exhibits, and programs.