Freedom Suits 1821

Some slaves who were unwilling or unable to take the risks involved in running away, escaped slavery by filing “freedom suits” in district courts. The suits were usually grounded on one of three claims—the slave had been brought into a free state or had previously resided in a free state, was the child of a freeborn mother, or had purchased or been promised his or her freedom. Dred Scott’s case is the most famous of these, but there were hundreds more. And unlike Dred Scott, over half of the slaves who filed freedom suits succeeded.