In the Shadow of Dred Scott
St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America
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Kennington offers an in-depth look at how daily interactions, webs of relationships, and arguments presented in court shaped and reshaped legal debates and public attitudes over slavery and freedom in St. Louis. Kennington also surveys more than eight hundred state supreme court freedom suits from around the United States to situate the St. Louis example in a broader context. Although white enslavers dominated the antebellum legal system in St. Louis and throughout the slaveholding states, that fact did not mean that the system ignored the concerns of the subordinated groups who made up the bulk of the American population. By looking at a particular example of one group's encounters with the law and placing these suits into conversation with similar encounters that arose in appellate cases nationwide Kennington sheds light on the ways in which the law responded to the demands of a variety of actors.