history of slavery in Missouri
began in 1720, when a man named Philippe Francois Renault brought
some 500 slaves from Santo Domingo to work in lead mines in the River des Peres area, located in the
present-day St. Louis and Jefferson counties.
The institution only became prominent in the area following two
major events: the Louisiana
(1803) and the invention of the cotton gin
(1793). This led to a mass movement of slave-owning
proprietors to the area of present-day Missouri and Arkansas, then known
as Upper Louisiana.
the spread of major cotton growth was limited to the more southerly
area, near the border with present-day Arkansas.
Instead, slavery in the other areas of Missouri was concentrated
into other major crops, such as tobacco
. A number of slaves was hired out as
, or deck hands for the ferries of the Mississippi River
majority of slaveowners in Missouri came from the worn-out
agricultural lands of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia/West Virginia.
By 1860, only 36 counties in Missouri had
1,000 or more slaves; top male slaves fetched a price of $1,300,
and top female slaves fetched around $1,000. The value of all the
slaves in Missouri was estimated by the State Auditor's 1860 report
at around US$44,181,912.
The territorial slave code was enacted in 1804, a year after the
purchase of the Louisiana
, under which slaves were banned from the use of
, participation in unlawful
assemblies, or selling alcohol
slaves. It also severely punished slaves for participating in
riots, insurrections, or offering resistance to their masters. It
also provided for the mutilation of slaves for sexual assault
upon a white woman; a white
man who sexually assaulted a slave woman was charged with
trespassing upon her owner's property. The code was retained by the
State Constitution of 1820.
An 1825 law, passed by the Missouri State Legislature
declared Blacks as incompetent as witnesses in cases which involved
Whites, and testimonies by black witnesses were automatically
In 1847, an ordinance banning the education of Blacks and mulattoes
was enacted. Anyone caught teaching a
black or mulatto person, slave or free, was to be fined $500 and
serve six months in jail.
Elijah Lovejoy edited a controversial
abolitionist newspaper, the Observer, in St. Louis,
Missouri, before being driven out by a mob.
He fled to
one of the border states
Missouri was exempt from President Abraham Lincoln
's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation
decreeing the freedom of slaves in all territory then held by
Governor Thomas C. Fletcher ended slavery in Missouri on January
11, 1865, by executive proclamation.