April 17, 2021

Art & Lifestyle:

Sotterley Continues Common Ground Program


Historic Sotterley continues its virtual programming with author William G. Thomas III as he speaks about his book, “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War.”

The free webinar is part of Sotterley’s 2021 Common Initiative and 14th annual Sotterley Speaker Series. It will be held at 7 pm Wednesday, March 3.

For more than 70 years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, MD, filed hundreds of lawsuits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the US Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital.

Piecing together evidence once dismissed in court and buried in the archives, Mr. Thomas tells an intricate and intensely human story of the enslaved families (the Butlers, Queens, Mahoneys, and others), their lawyers (among them a young Francis Scott Key), and the slaveholders who fought to defend slavery, beginning with the Jesuit priests who held some of the largest plantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown. “A Question of Freedom” asks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies in the present day.

Mr. Thomas is the John and Catherine Angle chair in the humanities and professor of history at the University of Nebraska. He served as chair of the Department of History from 2010 to 2016. He was selected as a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow.

There will be opportunities for questions during the webinar. This is a free virtual webinar, but advance registration is required. Online registration is available here.

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