ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis City branch of the NAACP will dedicate a bronze statue to civil rights icon Frankie Muse Freeman in Kiener Plaza this afternoon.
Although she earned her law degree in 1947, Freeman could not find a firm to hire her so she went into private practice. She was the lead attorney for the landmark NAACP case against the St. Louis housing authority, which ended legal racial discrimination in public housing in the city in 1954. In 1964, Freeman became the first woman to be appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights by President Lyndon Johnson.
In an interview about courage last year, Freeman recalled a time when she wasn’t courageous but in her words, ‘might have been out of her mind’. In 1965, four churches had been burned near Jackson Mississippi, the site of one of the civil rights hearings, and Freeman wanted to investigate.
“I want to see, because I can’t believe that anybody would burn churches. And they said, ‘oh no, you can’t do that,” she recalls.
The next morning, she and the dean of the Harvard Law School, also a member of the commission, were taken to see it. From then on she says all hearings in the south included time for the members to see the conditions of the communities they were visiting before hearings began.
Over two dozen individuals and foundations came together to donate $25,000 each for Freeman’s statue. Freeman will turn 101 this Friday.