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Before Dred Scott:
Freedom Suits in Antebellum Missouri

Ralph v. Coleman Duncan (1833)

Charge of Trespass of False Imprisonment

State of Missouri St Louis Circuit Court Third Judicial Circuit July term in the year of Christ 1830

          Ralph a man of color complains of James Duncan & Coleman Duncan of a plea of trespass assault & battery & false imprisonment for that heretofore to wit on the thirteenth day of May in the year of Christ eighteen hundred & thirty at the county of St. Louis aforesaid the said defendants with force and arms made an assault upon the said plaintiff and there beat bruised wounded and ill treated him & then & there with force and arms falsely & unlawfully imprisoned the said plaintiff & kept him & detained him in prison there without any lawful authority or cause for a long space of time to wit for the space of nine days then next ensuing – And said plaintiff further says that before & at the time of the committing of the said several grievances he was & still is a free person & that said defendants held & detained & still hold & detain him in slavery wherefore said plaintiff says he is greatly injured & hath sustained damage to five hundred dollars therefore he sues.

G.A. Bird atty for Ptff     

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