With the Missouri Compromise, Missouri entered the United States as a “slave state” in 1821. Settlement began with the French and Spanish but with the Louisiana Purchase, slave owners from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennesee would soon fill the Missouri River valleys. With the German migration that began in the 1830s those same valley’s demographics and attitude would change tremendously, and hold Missouri for the Union. St. Louis, was a very vital, pivotal and important location and a hotbed for abolitionists.
In 1829, a small group of four families, wealthy Virginia planters would join family members who had already established themselves, with their two dozen enslaved, [For more about that trip from Virginia to Missouri see https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2019/07/22/from-virginia-to-missouri/ ] One of which was named Archer Alexander. They settled along Dardenne Creek, in the middle of St. Charles County, but Archer would be put to work in the St. Louis brickyards. He was an uppity slave and really desired his freedom.
In February 1863, he got his chance. Knowing that his owner and several others in his neighborhood had undermined the nearby railroad, he took a brave step and informed the Union Army stationed there, that the next train to cross would most likely collapse and kill hundreds. He was the prime suspect, and the slave patrol was out to lynch him.
Using the same method as any fugitive slave, he fled to St. Louis and just happened to land in the home of William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister. Eliot also happened to be the founder of Washington University, the Western Sanitary Commission, and a highly respected member of the St. Louis community. He was also an abolitionist. Eliot saved Archer’s life and would see that he received his freedom.
When Lincoln, a personal friend to Eliot, was assassinated, the formerly enslaved wanted a monument to Lincoln, and St. Louis’ former slave, Archer Alexander would be the one, to represent them, rising up and as Eliot says “breaking his own chains”. This man provides St. Louis and all African-Americans a reason to be proud of the monument in Lincoln Park, in Washington, D.C., today.
Archer Alexander is also the ancestor of the great Muhammad Ali. For more about Archer’s life in St. Louis see https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/st-louis/
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