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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Underground Railroad Slave Station: Josiah White's Log Cabin


Yesterday, I visited a 'station' - a safe house along the Underground Railroad in Southern Illinois. The Josiah White Log Cabin sits behind the Cheney Mansion, as undetected as one could imagine. If you're not looking for it, you'll drive right by.


Amazingly if you Google "Cheney Mansion" there is very little mention of its role in helping the slaves. Cheney was a politician and an active abolitionist. In fact, many abolitionists lived in Jerseyville, Illinois. When Harriet Tubman was helping slaves to freedom, she needed help, she needed a network of people who believed what she did that slavery was wrong. So she helped as many slaves as she could get to freedom. "The railroad truly was the feet of the escaping slaves or a silent trip hidden under the hay of a horse-drawn supply wagon of a "conductor." If you can, imagine walking from the deep South up to freedom, the north. Think about traveling only at night where it made it harder for slave trackers to catch them. Think about the conditions Harriet Tubman and her escapees had to survive under. Surely there was rain, cold, heat, and of course the wildlife that lived in those wooded areas. How about what they ate? No one had coats, only the bare clothing on their backs the night of the slaves escape. So it was important to have a conductor and stations in which to rest in order to get to the next stop on the Underground Railroad.



"The conductor was a person who assisted the slaves in getting from one station to the next. A "station" was a code word for the next safe stop on the railroad. And this railroad ran from the south to north into Canada (the promise land or freedom). Conductors suspected or caught helping fleeing slaves, risked being fined as much as $500, as well as threat to their life, limb and property. Alton's riverfront location was a vital hub in helping slaves create connections to freedom in the north. Free blacks and hired slaves who worked on riverboats were able to spread the word about the Underground Railroad to other slaves. Because St. Louis, down river from Alton, was one of the largest slave-holding areas north of New Orleans, historians believe many slaves escaped through Illinois as it was a free state."


The Josiah White Log Cabin was considered a "safe house" -- a place in which slaves traveling to freedom to the North could rest, get a good meal, before they left out the next night towards their journey to freedom. I must admit this was a daunting experience, it left me feeling humbled and very appreciative for what the slaves went through so I could have freedom. So we could have freedom. This is the 3rd in a series of articles on various historical relevant Black History events and locations in and around the St. Louis, Missouri region. Come back each day to enjoy more! Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Elijah Parish Lovejoy: Abolitionist, Martyr


Though he only lived 35 years, Elijah Parish Lovejoy made a lot of Missouri slave owners angry. You see, Lovejoy lived in Alton, Illinois a the time and was an abolitionist who believed slavery was wrong, and he used his newspaper to write about it. This didn't go over well with the slave owners on the St. Louis side of the river. Lovejoy, "published a religious newspaper, The St. Louis Observer, and began to advocate the abolition of slavery. Despite the bitter feeling against him., Lovejoy persisted in arguing the fights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom from slavery. After seeing a slave, Francis J. McIntosh, burned at the stake, his editorials became so strident against slavery that he became an object of hatred by both Southerners and slave-holders. His press was wrecked by a mob in July, 1836, and he moved to Alton in the free State of Illinois."



That was the first time. However, Lovejoy would not be stopped. He believed what he believed and wasn't afraid to stand up against an angry mob intent on making slavery legal in all states. Anyone opposing them, were intimidated or even killed. "In Alton, Lovejoy became the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery in 1837 and the first pastor of the present College Avenue Presbyterian Church. He actively supported the organization of the Anti-slavery Society of Illinois which enraged the Alton citizens. He continued writing and publishing the Alton Observer even after three presses had been destroyed and thrown into the Mississippi River."



"On the historic night of November 7, 1837, a group of 20 Lovejoy supporters joined him at the Godfrey & Gilman warehouse to guard a new press until it could be installed at the Observer. As the crowd grew outside, excitement and tension mounted. Soon the pro-slavery mob began hurling rocks at the warehouse windows. The defenders retaliated by bombarding the crowd with a supply of earthenware pots found in the warehouse. Then came an exchange of gunfire. Alton's mayor tried in vain to persuade the defenders inside to abandon the press. They stood fast. One of the mob climbed a ladder to try to set fire to the roof of the building. Lovejoy and one of his supporters darted into the darkness to over-turn the ladder, for they knew they would be doomed if a fire was set. But again a volunteer mounted the ladder to try to ignite the roof with a smoking pot of pitch. As Lovejoy assisted Royal Weller in putting out the fire on the roof of the building, Lovejoy received a blast from a double-barreled shotgun. Five of the bullets fatally struck Lovejoy. He died in the arms of his friend Thaddeus Hurlbut. The mob cheered and said all in the building should die. Amos Roff tried to calm the mob and was shot in the ankle. Defenders of the press then laid down their weapons and were allowed to leave. The mob rushed the building, found the press, and threw it out a window to the riverbank, broke it into pieces and dumped the broken parts into the river, The body of Lovejoy was left undisturbed, remaining there until morning, guarded by friends who finally carried him home. He was buried on his 35th birthday, November 9, 1837."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Was The Dred Scott Decision So Important?

This month I will be writing a post each day on an event in Black History in celebration of Black History Month. I live in St. Louis, Missouri, and had no idea of the historical gems I was living around. All photos are mine, and original. I visited these places and took pictures just for the purpose of this series. I hope you enjoy it.

Why Was The Dred Scott Decision So Important?




“Dred Scott was a slave whose owner, an army doctor, had spent time in Illinois, a free state, and Wisconsin, a free territory at the time of Scott’s residence. The Supreme Court was stacked in favor of the slave states. Five of the nine justices were from the South while another, Robert Grier of Pennsylvania, was staunchly pro-slavery.”


“Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the majority decision, which was issued on March 6, 1857. The court held that Scott was not free based on his residence in either Illinois or Wisconsin becausehe was not considered a person under the U.S. Constitution–in the opinion of the justices, black people were not considered citizens when the Constitution was drafted in 1787. According to Taney, Dred Scott was the property of his owner, and property could not be taken from a person without due process of law.” -- http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/dred-scott-decision


Basically, the court ruled that no slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, and therefore had no rights, nor could they sue the court for freedom. This court decision rendered slaves again powerless further stating that Dred Scott must remain a slave. The court took his freedom away, nullified it, and made this man a slave when he had only known freedom for many years. This trial went on for 11 years, making the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. This trial took place in St. Louis, at the Old Courthouse, a now historical landmark.

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