William G. Thomas III will hold a free virtual discussion on his book “A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War” 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 3. The webinar is part of Sotterley’s 2021 Common Initiative and its 14th annual Speaker Series.

Thomas will talk about his book, which details how for more than 70 years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation’s capital.

A question and answer period will follow. Thomas is the John and Catherine Angle Chair in the Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Nebraska. He also served as Chair of the Department of History from 2010 to 2016 and in 2016 was selected as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Registration is required at www.sotterley.org.