Kwame Building Group (KWAME) has completed the Freedom Suits Memorial to honor enslaved plaintiffs who sued for their freedom. The memorial is located at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis where the Dred Scott Case was tried. KWAME served as the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR).
The Freedom Suits Memorial features a 14-foot bronze statue by sculptor Preston Jackson, a freedom walk of stone pavers that lead to the monument, bench seating and landscaping. The base is etched with the names of hundreds of enslaved plaintiffs who sued for their freedom. The Old Courthouse is also home to the only Dred and Harriet Scott statue in the world.
“From the Freedom Suits to the Black Lives Matter movement, we have rightfully earned our place at the table along with Selma, Birmingham and Atlanta,” said St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones at the unveiling ceremony.
St. Louis Circuit Judge David Mason spearheaded the project. He found the files of the Freedom Suits back in the 1990s and has since conducted extensive research to honor the many slaves, witnesses and attorneys involved in those cases. According to Mason, more than 130 slaves were freed out of the approximately 400 cases that were filed.
“The Freedom Suits project has much more significance on so many levels than any of the larger projects KWAME has been involved with,” said Tony Thompon, President of Kwame Building Group. “Judge Mason was a personal friend of my mother, Betty Thompson. He told me stories of how she helped him and other attorneys and judges when she was a state representative. When this project was getting off the ground, Judge Mason reached out to me and said he wanted KWAME to lead this special project. It is heartwarming to unveil this monument to the world nearly one year after her passing, knowing how many people it honors and will impact.”
Extensive planning and thought went into lighting design and how the statue was mounted so that the history of the piece could be captured from all angles and visible at various times of day. KWAME oversaw the project, including hiring and coordinating contractors, working with the design team to convert conceptual landscape drawings into working plans, overseeing installation and communicating with all stakeholders.
“It was an honor to help bring to life the vision Judge Mason has had for some time of a plaza for people to sit and acknowledge those who bravely fought through civil litigation to achieve their freedom,” said Kenneth Brown, Project Manager at Kwame Building Group. “There is such rich history around every way the Freedom Suits Memorial was constructed and displayed. Judge Mason’s passion for the project inspired us all.”