On Wednesday, March 3rd at 7:00 pm Sotterley continues its virtual programming with author William G. Thomas as he speaks about his book A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War.  

For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the 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, William 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 largestplantations in the nation and founded a college at Georgetown.A Question of Freedomasks us to reckon with the moral problem of slavery and its legacies in the present day.

William G. Thomas III is the John and Catherine Angle Chair in theHumanities 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.

This webinar is part of Historic Sotterley’s 2021 Common Initiative and 14th annual Sotterley Speaker Series.  There will be opportunities for Q & A during the webinar.  This is a FREE virtual webinar, but advance registration is required   On-line registration is available on Sotterley’s website at www.sotterley.org.


Historic Sotterley

Historic Sotterley, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the oldest museums of its kind in the United States, with a history dating back to the turn of the 18th century.

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