The freedom suits distilled the essence of the struggle into a stark, if clarifying, confrontation between the enslaved and the enslaver. Blacks wanted freedom. And slaveholders wanted to keep them enslaved.
This lecture explores the burst of freedom suits in the years that followed the American Revolution when enslaved families took slaveholders to court and won. Long before the Dred Scott decision, Black families in Washington, D.C., filed more than five hundred freedom suits, each a dramatic contest over whether slavery was legitimate in American law or not.