Wednesday, February 27, 2013

St. Louis Freedom Suits Legal Encoding Project Now Complete

Washington University in St. Louis has announced the conclusion of the St. Louis Freedom Suits Legal Encoding Project:
Molly, John, Nancy, Winny, Dred, Harriet — these former slaves all sued for their freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court long before the Emancipation Proclamation set them free. Now the case documents that record their stories and hundreds of others are just a browser click away.

The ability to access, search and interact with these unique resources marks the conclusion of the St. Louis Freedom Suits Legal Encoding Project, a major initiative for which the Digital Library Services (DLS) unit of Washington University Libraries secured funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), with the Missouri History Museum as an institutional partner.
The cases of African Americans suing for their freedom in the first half of the 19th century — some successfully and others not — are captured in the original legal documents and record books of the early St. Louis Circuit Court. But those paper files remained largely unknown and unexamined until about 20 years ago, when a historian began researching and writing about the case records, comprised of many diverse legal documents covered in decades’ worth of coal dust.
For more of this article (by Evie Hemphill, Washington University Libraries), follow the link.