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Dred Scott Commemorative Events

St. Louis’ Historic Old Courthouse, 11 North 4th Street
Subject to Change
Click here for a printable PDF version of the schedule


Saturday, March 3:

The Dred Scott Exhibit, A Legacy of Courage: Dred Scott and the Quest for Freedom, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

10 a.m. History and Memory: Thoughts on the 150th Anniversary of the Dred Scott Decision.

Includes a speech by Congressman William Lacy Clay, an announcement by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and the announcement of the winners of the student writing contest, "Dear Mr. Scott."

Speakers will discuss ways in which the Dred Scott Decision affected the nation in 1857 and continues to resonate 150 years later.

11 a.m. Special hearing of the 1852 Missouri Supreme Court arguments in the Dred Scott Case presented by Grace Hill Settlement House, AmeriCorps Trail Rangers.

This very special public program has been in the preparation stages for several months. Local lawyers have been training young student AmeriCorps rangers from Grace Hill to argue a case before an appeals court. The students will argue one of the most famous and difficult cases ever presented – that of Dred Scott before the Missouri Supreme Court. Sitting in as justices on the case will be real-life, present day judges.

Noon: Public premiere of Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, a new Dred Scott video produced in partnership with the History Channel.

A new, 15 minute video covering the history of the Dred Scott Case will be shown to the assembled crowd in the rotunda of the Historic Old Courthouse, where the case began. Alison Guss, a producer from the History Channel, will be on hand to introduce the film and answer audience questions about the process of making historical documentaries.

12:30 p.m. Award ceremony for all winners of the “Dear Mr. Scott” student writing contest and St. Louis History Day special prize winners.

1 p.m. Special Dred Scott Trial Program performed by the Carr-Lane School.

Local students have worked to prepare this special program on the Dred Scott case, taking historical information and using it to create an interpretation of the story of the Scotts and their struggle for freedom, using theater, music, dance and recitation.

1 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

1:30 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

2 p.m. Voices of Praise Choir from St. Alphonsus Rock Catholic Church

2 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

2:30 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

3 p.m. Freedom Suits in the St. Louis Circuit Court, a presentation by Michael Everman, C.A., Missouri State Archives-St. Louis,on the preservation of African American Heritage Court Records.

The records generated by the pre-Civil War St. Louis courts are a treasure-trove of information on what African-American life was like in the region during the era of slavery. The State of Missouri is currently preserving these priceless records for the use of historians, genealogists, legal scholars, and the interested public. Mr. Everman will discuss the steps being taken to ensure that these records are preserved for all time and are available to the public.

3 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

3:30 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

4 p.m. Showing of the video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, in the Old Courthouse Theater.


Sunday, March 4:

Screenings of the new video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, will be shown on the half hour from 8:30 to 4, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

The Dred Scott Exhibit, A Legacy of Courage: Dred Scott and the Quest for Freedom, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

10 a.m. In Defense of Freedom: Roswell Field and Dred Scott – Wendy Dyer

The Field House, formerly known as the Eugene Field House and Toy Museum, was the home of Roswell Field, who took on the Dred Scott case in 1854, shepherding it through a lower federal court and on to the U.S. Supreme Court, while laying out the strategy used to try to win freedom for the Scotts. Although politics dictated the eventual Supreme Court decision, Field will always be remembered as the keystone of the Scotts’ argument before the nation’s highest court. Wendy Dyer will tell the story of Roswell Field and of efforts she has spearheaded to have the historic house declared a National Historic Landmark.

11 a.m. Presentation on the Scott Joplin House – Karla Frye

Scott Joplin lived in St. Louis for a short time at the turn of the 20th century, but his impact on the city and the nation’s music was immeasurable. Karla Frye, who works at the historic house for the State of Missouri, will describe Joplin, his life and music, and ways in which African-American culture in St. Louis has been essential in creating the city we know today.

Noon: “We Must Stay Cheerful and Struggle Wisely”: Frederick Douglass Comments on the Dred Scott Case - A Performance by Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass

Fred Morsell is one of the nation’s premiere living history actors. His powerful performances as Frederick Douglass, to whom he bears a striking resemblance, have been hailed across the country. Mr. Morsell’s special performances for the Dred Scott anniversary will accent the reactions Douglass had to the Dred Scott case, and ways in which Douglass used the result of the case to force the slavery question into more open debate.

1 p.m. “In the Footsteps of Freedom” –Program on African American Historical Sites in the downtown area – Dr. John Wright

Dr. John Wright has spent decades in the study of historical sites associated with the African-American heritage of the St. Louis area. He has written an extraordinary book about these sites, published by the Missouri Historical Society, and recently completed a walking tour booklet of downtown sites for the use of visitors to the Old Courthouse. Booklets are free to all who are interested in touring the downtown area. Come hear his talk and learn about York, the slave who went West with Lewis and Clark, Elizabeth Keckley, seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln, civil rights demonstrations, slave auctions, the origin of the song “Frankie and Johnnie,” and the struggles of Dred and Harriet Scott for freedom, all of which happened in the downtown St. Louis area.

2 p.m. Central Baptist Choir performance

The Central Baptist Church counted Harriet Scott as a member of their congregation in the 1840s through 1870s. Come hear the choir sing appropriate songs to honor the Scott family and their courageous bid for freedom.

3 p.m. Sisters under the Skin: Free and Enslaved Women of Color in Antebellum St. Louis – Kris Zapalac

What was life like for African-American women in St. Louis prior to the Civil War? This question will be answered by scholar Kris Zapalac, who will focus on some of the women who helped change our understanding of freedom-women who named their children after French, Muslim and Anglo-American war heroes; who persuaded slave owners to take their children's freedom suits; who were prosecuted for helping people leave the state; and those who were sold "down river" for seeking freedom with their children. The presenter, Kris Zapalac, from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' State Historic Preservation Office, spent four years reading court records, newspapers, letters and laws.

Monday, March 5:

Screenings of the new video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel, will be shown on the half hour from 8:30 to 4, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

The Dred Scott Exhibit, A Legacy of Courage: Dred Scott and the Quest for Freedom, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

11 a.m. Special Dred Scott Trial Program – Long Middle School

Local students have worked to prepare this special program on the Dred Scott case, taking historical information and using it to create an interpretation of the story of the Scotts and their struggle for freedom.

Noon: “We Must Stay Cheerful and Struggle Wisely”: Frederick Douglass Comments on the Dred Scott Case - A Performance by Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass

Fred Morsell is one of the nation’s premiere living history actors. His powerful performances as Frederick Douglass, to whom he bears a striking resemblance, have been hailed across the country. Mr. Morsell’s special performances for the Dred Scott anniversary will accent the reactions Douglass had to the Dred Scott case, and ways in which Douglass used the result of the case to force the slavery question into more open debate.

1 p.m. Special Dred Scott Trial Program –Langston Middle School

Local students have worked to prepare this special program on the Dred Scott case, taking historical information and using it to create an interpretation of the story of the Scotts and their struggle for freedom.

2 p.m. “We Must Stay Cheerful and Struggle Wisely”: Frederick Douglass Comments on the Dred Scott Case - A Performance by Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass

Fred Morsell is one of the nation’s premiere living history actors. His powerful performances as Frederick Douglass, to whom he bears a striking resemblance, have been hailed across the country. Mr. Morsell’s special performances for the Dred Scott anniversary will accent the reactions Douglass had to the Dred Scott case, and ways in which Douglass used the result of the case to force the slavery question into more open debate.


Tuesday, March 6:

Screenings of the new Dred Scott video Slavery on Trial: The Dred Scott Decision, produced in partnership with the History Channel will be shown on the half hour from 8:30 to 4, in the Old Courthouse Theater.

The Dred Scott Exhibit, A Legacy of Courage: Dred Scott and the Quest for Freedom, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Launch of the new Dred Scott Educational Website, created with funds from a National Park Service "Parks as Classrooms" Grant.

11 a.m. Special Dred Scott Trial Program – Blow Jr. Preparatory Academy

Local students have worked to prepare this special program on the Dred Scott case, taking historical information and using it to create an interpretation of the story of the Scotts and their struggle for freedom.

Noon: “We Must Stay Cheerful and Struggle Wisely”: Frederick Douglass Comments on the Dred Scott Case - A Performance by Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass

Fred Morsell is one of the nation’s premiere living history actors. His powerful performances as Frederick Douglass, to whom he bears a striking resemblance, have been hailed across the country. Mr. Morsell’s special performances for the Dred Scott anniversary will accent the reactions Douglass had to the Dred Scott case, and ways in which Douglass used the result of the case to force the slavery question into more open debate.

2 p.m. On-line educational event commemorating the significance of the Dred Scott Decision.

A special web broadcast of an educational program on the Dred Scott Decision, including historians and scholars, based in the Historic Old Courthouse where the case began.

Did You Know?

The insertion of the last piece of the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was completed on October 28, 1965. To learn more about the construction of the Gateway Arch click here. More...