For the past two years, educators Donna Rogers-Beard and April Fulstone have assisted The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation in raising funds for a statue in memory of Dred Scott, whose legal battles set the stage for the Civil War.
“The most important steps that led to the Civil War began here in St. Louis,” Rogers-Beard said. “This was a case that had local origins, and I think people need to know that.”
Plans call for the memorial to be installed at the Old Courthouse, where Scott’s legal battles started. The building is located across from the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis. Lynne Jackson, a resident of O’Fallon who is Scott's great-great-granddaughter, started the foundation.
Court case rooted in St. Louis
Scott was born into slavery in Virginia and later sold to John Emerson, a doctor serving in the U.S. Army, the foundation's website states. When living with Emerson, Scott resided in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was illegal.
He filed a lawsuit in 1846 in St. Louis in pursuit of freedom. While the judgment went against Scott, the judge authorized a second trial. In 1850, a Missouri jury ruled in Scott’s favor. The case was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which overturned the jury's judgment.
The case then went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1857 ruled 7-2 against Scott. The court said neither he nor any other person of African ancestry could claim U.S. citizenship, meaning he could not bring suit in federal court. The ruling stirred sectional tensions over the slavery issue.
Teachers organize fundraisers to keep past alive
Rogers-Beard has taught history at for 20 years. She coordinated fundraising through the school’s Black Student Union. During Black History Month in February, the union collected donations and raised approximately $500. The students raised the money by placing penny jars in classrooms. Last year, audience members at a -Clayton basketball game made contributions.
The history teacher grew up in Chicago, and African-American history and civil rights have been a big part of her life.
“I heard Martin Luther King speak and participated in demonstrations,” she said. “I can remember shutting down Woolworth’s because of the lunch counter segregation.”
Fulstone teaches sixth-grade history at . The Scott decision is a part of the curriculum she teaches.
“We don’t hear as much about the civil rights activists of the 19th century as we do current civil rights activists,” Fulstone said. “And these are the people that brought the movement to the forefront.”
Fulstone and math teacher Dave Powers organized a fundraiser for the foundation that they called the Penny Challenge. The building's advisory teachers placed a plastic tub in the cafeteria, and students donated whatever they could.
Each penny counted as a point. The class with the highest point total received a meal out.
The fundraiser collected approximately $500.