‘Seeking Freedom’ documentary wins regional Emmy

“Seeking Freedom,” a television documentary based on Washington University-led research into the courageous stories of African-American slaves who sued for their freedom in St. Louis courts, has been awarded a 2008 Mid-America Emmy in the category for historical documentaries.

Produced by the St. Louis-based, education-oriented HEC-TV cable broadcasting organization, the documentary features commentary by a range of WUSTL faculty and staff, most of whom were involved in the original “Freedom Suits” archival research for the project.

The HEC documentary was produced through extensive collaboration with the American Culture Studies Program in Arts & Sciences. Working closely with HEC producers was Fritz Vandover, a former Arts & Sciences student who led the creation of WUSTL’s original Web site for the court records digitization project while pursuing a master’s degree in history.

David T. Konig, Ph.D., professor of history in Arts & Sciences and of law who helped lead the original “Freedom Suits” research project, is featured extensively in the documentary. Other American culture studies faculty making brief appearances are Peter Kastor, Ph.D., associate professor of history and of American culture studies, and Wayne Fields, Ph.D., the Lynne Cooper Harvey Distinguished Professor of English and American culture studies.

The Freedom Suits initiative is part of the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project, a collaborative effort involving WUSTL, the Missouri State Archives, a division of the Missouri Secretary of State’s office and the St. Louis Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

Designed to preserve and make available online historically significant documents in St. Louis Circuit Court archives dating to the 1700s, the project has involved WUSTL faculty and staff since its inception.

HEC’s “Seeking Freedom” documentary tells the human stories behind the antebellum Freedom Suits filed in the St. Louis Circuit Court.

The 45-minute documentary features Circuit Court Judge David Mason, J.D., a 1983 graduate of the School of Law, as narrator.

Filming and interviews began in 2003 in the same time frame as the launch of the Freedom Suits Web site: stlcourtrecords.wustl.edu.