Tag: Dred Scott

Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass Statues Installed in Maryland State House

Bronze Statues of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman (via Kingsport Times-News)

During a ceremony Monday night in the Maryland State House, bronze statues of famed abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass  (sculpted by Ivan Schwartz of StudioEIS) were unveiled, according to ABC News.

To quote abcnews.go.com:

The life-sized statues were dedicated during a special joint session of the Maryland General Assembly in the Old House Chamber, the room where slavery finally was abolished in the state in 1864.

“A mark of true greatness is shining light on a system of oppression and having the courage to change it,” House Speaker Adrienne Jones, the state’s first Black and first female House speaker, said in prepared remarks. “The statues are a reminder that our laws aren’t always right or just. But there’s always room for improvement.”

While the commissioning of the statues was put in motion more than three years ago, their arrival coincides with new leadership in the state legislature. This is Jones’ first session as speaker, and the first new Senate president in more than three decades was elected by senators last month.

The statues, dedicated during Black History Month, were made to show Tubman and Douglass as they would have appeared in age and dress in 1864.

Both Tubman and Douglass were born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Tubman escaped from slavery to become a leading abolitionist who helped scores of enslaved people through the Underground Railroad.

Douglass also escaped slavery, and he went on to become an author, speaker, abolitionist and supporter of women’s rights. His autobiography, published in 1845, was a bestseller that helped fuel the abolitionist movement.

The statues aren’t the only recent examples of the state taking steps to reflect its rich Black history.

Last month, a portrait of Verda Welcome, who was elected to the state Senate in 1962, is the first portrait of a black person to adorn the Maryland’s Senate walls. The painting of Welcome replaced one of a white governor who had been on the wall for 115 years.

Maryland also has removed several painful reminders of its past in recent years.

In 2017, the state removed a statue of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. Supreme Court justice and Maryland native who wrote the 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to African Americans.

State officials voted to remove the Taney statue days after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man rammed his car through the crowd of people who were there to condemn hundreds of white nationalists who were protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Read more: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/maryland-unveil-statues-tubman-douglass-capitol-68878494

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Offers New Online Database of Court Cases of Enslaved People Seeking Their Freedom

According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently debuted an online database of more than 500 court cases in which enslaved persons had sued to gain their freedom. The Dred Scott case in 1857 is the most famous of such cases, but there were many more.

The project collected, digitized, and makes accessible the freedom suits brought by enslaved families in the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, Maryland state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. African-American enslaved families accumulated legal knowledge, legal acumen, and experience with the law that they passed from one generation to the next.

The freedom suits they brought against slaveholders exposed slavery a priori as subject to legal question. The suits in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, raised questions about the constitutional and legal legitimacy of slavery, and by extension, affected slavery and law in Maryland, Virginia, and all of the federal territories.

One such case was that of Ann Williams, who leapt from the third floor window of a tavern on F Street in Washington, D.C., after she was sold to Georgia slave traders and separated from her family. She suffered a broken back and fractured her arms, but she survived.

In 2015, original documents about her came to light at the National Archives. Williams and her husband were reunited and had four more children. Then she sued for her freedom. And won. Below is a short film about her story:

The online database concentrates on cases filed in Washington, D.C. in the 1820s and 1830s. More than 100 of these cases involved enslaved persons who were represented by Francis Scott Key, the author of the “Star Spangled Banner.” As such the database is named “O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law and Family.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/05/new-online-database-of-court-records-of-cases-of-enslaved-people-seeking-their-freedom/