Courts in the Classroom
Supreme Court of Indiana
Division of State Court Administration
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste 500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dr. Elizabeth R. Osborn
Public History and
2011 Outstanding Public
History Project Award
from the National Council
on Public History
With sponsorship by the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Bar Foundation, Freetown Village premiered, in January 2003, "A Matter of Justice," a dramatic production highlighting the 1855 anti-slavery Supreme Court case Freeman v. Robinson. This production is currently touring the state.
The production is based on research conducted by Freetown Village and Court Historian Elizabeth Osborn, and was sparked by a case highlighted in the law review article, The Indiana Supreme Court and the Struggle Against Slavery, written by former Indianapolis attorney Sandra Boyd Williams.
The production will tell the story of John Freeman, who was a prosperous free African-American who lived in Indianapolis in the 1850s. A Missouri slaveholder claimed Mr. Freeman was actually a runaway slave named "Sam." Assisted by a deputy U.S. Marshall, Mr. Freeman was tricked into visiting a federal office and later forced to strip so he could be examined for marks that would identify him as Sam. He was held in jail for weeks and charged for the cost of his imprisonment. Even though more than 100 citizens, including a Supreme Court jurist, signed notes for bail totaling a half-million dollars, he was not granted his release. To secure his freedom, his attorneys traveled to Georgia and Canada to find witnesses and actually found "Sam." Freeman sued the U.S. Marshall for assault and extortion. The case eventually went to the Indiana Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled that Mr. Freeman could sue the U.S. Marshall.
Freetown Village is a "living history" museum that teaches the public about African American life in Indiana after the Civil War. We achieve this goal through museum exhibits, theater programs, character portrayals, craft and heritage workshops, distance learning events, and other programs. Special events include theme dinner programs, an 1870 Wedding, and 1870 Christmas. Actors perform at your site and public places. Call us at (317) 631-1870 for more information or to schedule programs.
Freetown Village actors have performed in schools, libraries and at festivals throughout Indiana and the Midwest. This one-hour production is suitable for grades four and up.