Timeline of Missouri's African American History

Missouri's African-American Historical Timeline 1720 - 1820
1720 Phillippe Francois Renault brought the first enslaved Africans to the lead mining districts of colonial Missouri.

French King Louis XV issued an "Edict Concerning the Negro Slaves in Louisiana," known as the "Black Code." This code continued under the Spanish regime.

1769 Spanish Governor General Alejandro O'Reilly prohibited Indian slavery in Upper Louisiana; Africans continued to be enslaved. Legal issues arose as to the status of persons of mixed Indian and African ancestry.
1787 The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in territory north of the Ohio River. Many slave owners in that area moved west of the Mississippi River into Spanish-controlled territory to avoid losing slaves
1789 Born a slave in Virginia (May 3), John Berry Meachum later became known for his work in St. Louis as an educator and abolitionist

John Berry Meachum
Courtesy Western Historical Manuscript Collection, University of Missouri - St. Louis

1798 James P. Beckwourth, famous black fur trapper and mountain man, was born in Virginia. His family moved to the Louisiana Territory in 1809
1803 The purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France (April 30), doubled the size of the United States. President Jefferson established a territorial government to govern the new lands

The new territorial government enacted a series of laws known as the  "Black Code" or "Slave Code." These were largely based on Virginia's slave code. The Missouri code made no distinction between slaves and other personal property


The Louisiana Territory enacted legislation allowing persons wrongfully enslaved to sue for freedom (June 27)

1817 Free blacks living in the Missouri Territory were legislatively prohibited from traveling freely and from gathering in meetings due to white fear of rebellion.
1818 Missouri applied for admission to the union as a slave state.
1820 Missouri statehood became a national controversy as Congress debated the future status of slavery in the land acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. The "Missouri Compromise" allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state, thus keeping the balance of slave and free states equal in Congress. Although Missouri was allowed to enter as a slave state, the remaining portion of the Louisiana Purchase area north of the 36° 30' line, Missouri's southern border, was to be forever free of slavery.