Prior to the Civil War, over 300 enslaved people sued for their freedom in St. Louis courts. The most well-known of these “freedom suits” was that of Dred and Harriet Scott. In this DBQuest, students will explore the only known account of a freedom suit written by a former enslaved woman, Lucy Delaney.  Using her autobiography, students will consider how enslaved people resisted slavery through both legal and extra-legal means. 

The Big Question: What decisions did families make in their fight to resist slavery?


This material is based upon work supported by the National Defense Education Program (NDEP) for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education, Outreach, and Workforce Initiative Programs under Grant No. HQ0034-21-S-F001. The views expressed in written materials or publications, and/or made by speakers, moderators, and presenters, do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Defense nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


Students will be able to...

  • Describe what an autobiography is and what it can tell us
  • Use evidence from primary sources to support analysis and answer questions
  • Discuss how one family resisted the institution of slavery
  • Explain how Freedom Suits were used to resist the institution of slavery