Bending Toward Justice

It was a beautiful fall morning in St. Louis, MO. The date was October 12, 2019 to be exact. The sun was bright. The air was crisp. It was quiet except for the soft chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves. The huge trees along the thoroughfare of Washington Blvd. seemed almost to announce the grand event about to take place at the Mahler Ballroom.

The event was to become a celebration of history. A celebration of faithfulness. A celebration of racial reconciliation reaching from the past to the present and on into the future.

Seated at a simple head table were the descendants of Dred and Harriet Scott, John Ferguson and Homer Plessy, and Oliver Brown. Lynne Jackson (great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott) was there. Keith Plessy (a descendant of Homer Plessy) was there. Phoebe Ferguson (a descendant of Judge John Ferguson) was there. And Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown was there. They represented 3 of the most important court cases in the history of the country. The Dred Scott case (Scott v Sandford) was decided by the Supreme Court in 1857. The Homer Plessy case (Plessy v Ferguson) was decided by the Supreme Court in 1896. The Oliver Brown case (Brown v Board of Education) was decided by the Supreme Court in 1954. David Thomas Konig, Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law attended to remind us that what the law did in these cases was as important as what it said. Dr. Konig is also Professor Emeritus at Washington University and a signer of the Unpaid Labor Manifesto.

All of these cases were about gaining civil rights for black people who were denied them. All of them were not won when they were fought. Scott and Plessy lost their cases and Brown won. However, the rights that Scott and Plessy sought were eventually won for all of us. From 1857 to 1896 to 1954 black and white people are seen working together on these cases to right wrongs. Now as then the vision of the Unpaid Labor Project is for racial reconciliation to be brought about by people of goodwill doing the right thing to repair injustice-one person, one organization, one community at at time.