THE OLD COURTHOUSE, ST. LOUIS:
WITNESS TO A TROUBLED TIME
A notorious and historical courthouse,
built of cast and wrought iron and stone in 1839 -
this famous court of law still stands
as part of the St. Louis downtown skyline.
Built in a time when Missouri was part of a bitter divide,
when slaves were openly bought and sold
on these courthouse steps.
This beautiful building is a testament
to this turbulent time, when on April 6, 1846
a slave named Dred Scott (and his wife Harriet)
sued for their freedom in this very place
(in the courtroom shown here).
The U.S. Supreme Court later declared that
African descendants had "no rights which the white man
was bound to respect," and that Congress could not
prevent the spread of slavery to the Western states.
This decision, which began with the events in this courthouse,
eventually led to the great U.S. Civil War.
Climbing the steep metal spiral stairs,
smelling the old stone and wood in these halls,
thinking of those times and decisions . . .
made me dizzy on this hot summer day.