After visiting the Gateway Arch with my family, Kim wanted to check out the Old Courthouse. You can see the courthouse in this picture I took at the top of the Gateway Arch. It’s the building with the green, round top. 

Here’s a picture I took simply because I liked the reflection the courthouse made on an adjacent building. (It looked a little better in real life.)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t excited about visiting the courthouse. I had no idea what historic event happened in that building until Kim shared it with me as we were entering the building. (More on that in a moment.)

The inside of the courthouse was decked out in spectacular patriotic colors and American flags.

Outside the courthouse, a statue was erected and a marker explained the significance this particular courthouse played in American history. Dred Scott and his wife filed a lawsuit to try to gain their freedom. The story is long but the Scotts, as slaves, saw the evils of slavery firsthand and wanted freedom for themselves and their children.

It was in this courthouse that they filed a suit that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling in that high court was not in Dred’s favor and, in fact, was utterly despicable. In essence, one of the justices in the majority opinion stated that neither Dred Scott nor any other persons of African descent were American citizens and thus were not entitled to the rights and freedoms shared by all Americans. That ruling was one of the major precipitating forces that led only a few years later to the beginning of the American Civil War.

In 1857, after he had lost his case (which had caused so much upheaval for his owner who had refused to give him his freedom), he was sold to his original owner for $1. His new owner immediately set him free. Where was his freedom legally granted? Back in a courtroom in St. Louis. We were able to visit that courtroom and take a few pictures on our trip.