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Missouri State Archives
Timeline of Missouri's African American History

1821 Missouri became the 24th state of the United States of America (August 10).
1821 The American Colonization Society founded the colony of Liberia in western Africa for freed slaves.
1823 The Missouri General Assembly authorized each county to establish slave patrols to guard against slave plots and insurrections.
1824  The Missouri General Assembly retained territorial legislation enabling persons held in slavery illegally to sue for their freedom (December 30).
1824 In the slave freedom suit Winny v. Whitesides, the Missouri Supreme Court established the judicial precedent of "once free, always free" to determine the outcome of such freedom suits.
1827 In Merry v. Tiffin & Menard, the Missouri Supreme Court held that a slave was emancipated by residence in any territory where slavery was prohibited by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
1829 In Trammel v. Adams, the Missouri Supreme Court determined that residence in Illinois entitled a slave to freedom even if s/he came to Missouri afterward.
1834 William Wells Brown escaped slavery in St. Louis, later becoming an abolitionist and America's first African American novelist.
1835 All free blacks and mulattoes, aged seven to twenty-one, were legislatively ordered by Missouri's General Assembly to be bound as apprentices or servants.
1835 To remain in Missouri, all free blacks were required to obtain a "free-license" from the county court.
1834 In the Missouri Supreme Court, the case of Margurite v. Pierre Chouteau, Sr., officially ended Indian slavery in Missouri.
1836 The descendants of Marie Jean Scypion, an Afro-Indian slave in colonial Missouri, were awarded freedom by the Jefferson County Circuit Court based on their Native American ancestry following legal battles that lasted over three decades. The Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1838.
1836 In Rachel v. Walker, the Missouri Supreme Court held that if an officer of the United States Army takes a slave to a territory where slavery is prohibited, he forfeits his property.
1836 After he fatally stabbed a deputy sheriff, Francis McIntosh was brutally lynched in St. Louis, earning the city a reputation for lawlessness and barbaric behavior (April 28).
1837 Elijah Lovejoy, abolitionist clergyman and St. Louis newspaper editor, died defending his press from a mob siege in Alton, Illinois (November 7).
1837 The Missouri Supreme Court, in Jennings v. Kavanaugh, ruled that an owner was not liable for the criminal acts of his slave property.


James Milton Turner
courtesy Lincoln University, Page Library

1839  Tom Bass was born a slave in Boone County; later became nationally-known equestrian (January 5).
1839 James Milton Turner was born a slave in St. Louis County (August 22). He became Missouri's most prominent African American leader after the Civil War, promoting black education. He also served as U.S. Minister to Liberia.
1846 The constitutionality of the "free-license" law was upheld.
1846 Dred and Harriet Scott initiated a suit for freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court. Under Missouri statutes, the suit was allowed based on previous residence in a free territory (Wisconsin) before return to the slave state of Missouri (April 6).
1847 The Missouri legislature passed a law prohibiting the education of blacks, free or slave.
1847 Hiram Young purchased his freedom and settled in western Missouri.  His Independence-based business, making yokes and wagons for westward expansion, was one of the largest in Jackson County by 1860.
1854 Augustus Tolton, born a slave in Ralls County, Missouri, became the first recognized African American Catholic priest in the United States (April 1).
1854 President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing "popular sovereignty" to determine whether a territory would be a slave or free state. This act set the stage for the violent Kansas-Missouri border wars where Missouri "Border Ruffians" and Kansas "Jayhawkers" transformed a frontier quarrel over slavery's borders into a national issue (May 30)
1855  Elizabeth Keckley purchased her freedom in St. Louis; she was later employed by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (November 15).
1855  Celia, a Callaway County slave, was executed for the murder of her sexually abusive owner, Robert Newsom (December 23).
1857  U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney handed down the Dred Scott decision (March 6). The case, which originated in St. Louis, intensified the sectional controversy regarding the expansion of slavery. Taney concluded that Scott lacked standing in court because he lacked U.S. citizenship. In Taney's opinion, slaves as well as free blacks, would never be able to become U.S. citizens; hence, Scott had no standing to sue in a court of law. Taney also took the opportunity to argue that each state had the right to determine the status of slaves, and that Congress had exceeded its powers in forbidding slavery in certain areas of the Louisiana Purchase; therefore, the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.
1858  The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, published by Cyprian Clamorgan, profiled St. Louis free African American society. 

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