Forty one days ago, on August 20, 1829 William Campbell first wrote: I started from Lexington, Virginia on a journey to the state of Missouri. My own object in going to that remote section of the Union was to seek a place where I might obtain an honest livelihood by the practice of law. I travel in company with four families containing about 50 individuals, white and black.
Next day rode over miles of very bad roads between Muddy Fork and Little Wabash, said to overflow in winter. Passed through Maysville, the county town of Clay county. It consists of a small wooden court house and jail, two houses and three cabins. Crossed one prairie 10 miles wide, through which passed a small stream called Elm River. The rising and setting of the sun on the prairie is a glorious sight. Encamped in a prairie near a skirt of wood.
While the Illinois state constitution did not have a clause forbidding an amendment to allow slavery, religions leaders like John Mason Peck, and voters had rejected a proposal for a new constitutional convention that could have made slavery legal, five years before, in 1824. Despite these laws toleratingde factoslavery, in a series of legal decisions the Illinois Supreme Courtdeveloped a jurisprudence to gradually emancipate the enslaved people of Illinois. The justices decided that in order for a contract of servitude to be valid, both parties must be in agreement and sign it, and it was registered within 30 days of entering the state. In one of the predecessors of the Dred Scottdecision, Moore v. People, 55 U.S. 13 (1852), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a conviction for harboring a fugitive slave from Missouri, as had the Illinois Supreme Court a few years earlier.
The caravan completed its’ crossing of the state of Indiana and is starting across Illinois. America was on the move. They have come over 600 miles from Rockbridge County in Virginia on their own journey. These things are not on the mind of these fifty weary travelers, headed for Saint Charles County in Missouri, of which the enslaved Archer Alexander is a member. In 1876, the Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. was the vision of thousands of the formerly enslaved people that President Lincoln had helped free. The monument with Archer Alexander (1806-1880) portrays a slave who has worked to free himself, has broken and thrown off his shackles and is seen rising with the vision of the future on his face. The face of freedom.
Next day came through Vincennes, a beautifully situated town, on the bank of the Wabash, with a number of fine brick houses and…
On the 27th of September the caravan is crossing Indiana. This is the journal of William Campbell, moving four families from Rockbridge County Virginia to Saint Charles County Missouri. The caravan is made up of just four families. Between the Alexander, McCluer and Wilson families, they own twenty-five people, half of the caravan. Archer Alexander is a part of this. Its’ 1829, and America is on the move.
Next day had incessant hard rain nearly all day. We pushed on to get over the Little White River. Got very wet. Crossed the river easily. A fine stream nearly the same size as Big White River. Roads very muddy after the rain. The country between the forks of the White is level, a part of it is good land but part is barren. Encamped at [Andrew] Purcells, road and country level; many movers.*
The Journey continues… This is the journal of William Campbell, leading four families, Alexander, McCluer, Wilson and Icenhower from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to Dardenne Prairie, in Saint Charles County Missouri. It includes at least 25 enslaved people, including the enslaved Archer Alexander, who today is found on Washington, D.C.’s Emancipation Monument. The journal is located in the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. They had departed Lexington on August 20, 1829… Campbell has spent the past five days in Charleston, (West) Virginia waiting on the wagons that are loaded with household goods to catch up to him in Charleston..
5 September – Our wagons arrived and we put 5,000 pounds out of them into a keel boat to go by water and they lay one day at Daniel Ruffner’s. Encamped on a short turnpike at Hamiltons. Staid…
Staid in Lewisburg until evening. It was a quarterly court and a day of great resort in Lewisburg. Started in the evening and came to Pierce’s [Pierie’s] ten miles over the Muddy Creek Mountain. Fared well.
William Massilon Campbell graduated in 1825 from Washington College, later Washington and Lee University. His father Samuel LeGrand Campbell was a President of the esteemed college.As a lawyer, he had a keen interest in the affairs of each County Seat, and would spend several hours visiting and attending the court’s proceedings. This allowed time for…
Stop Congress from removing the Emancipation Monument from our Nation’s Capitol. Add your name to the Petition today. This is the only memorial entirely paid for by thousands of formerly enslaved and U.S. Colored Troops in our Nation’s capitol. https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC
Freedom’s Memorial, also known as the Emancipation Monument in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. has a plaque that reads “in grateful memory of Abraham Lincoln this monument was erected by the Western Sanitary Commission. of Saint Louis Mo: with funds contributed solely by emancipated citizens of the United States declared free by his proclamation January 1st A.D. 1863. The first contributionof five dollars was made by Charlotte Scott, a freed woman of Virginia being her first earnings in freedom and consecrated by her…
The Emancipation Monument in Washington, D.C. was funded entirely by the formerly enslaved that had gained their status under President Abraham Lincoln. When Charlotte Scott heard of Lincoln’s death, she took her first $5 she had earned in freedom and gave it to her former master, William P. Rucker, and begged him to see a memorial to the “best friend the colored people had.” With the assistance of the Western Sanitary Commission, a war relief organization of St. Louis, funds were donated for the monument by thousands of slaves, the Freedmen’s Bureau and the U.S. Colored Troops.
On the monument Lincoln is seen with his Emancipation Proclamation of January 1st, 1863 asking the formerly enslaved Archer Alexander, who has already broken his own shackles, to rise and stand beside him. Alexander was born in Virginia, brought to Missouri in 1829, and is a hero buried in an unmarked grave in St. Louis. He is the ancestor of Muhammad Ali. This memorial, shares in the context of history the appreciation felt by the formerly enslaved; and is the first and only monument in our Nation’s capital funded entirely by African Americans. A petition has been started through CHANGE.ORG, in response to Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Bill HR7466 To require the Secretary of the Interior to remove the Emancipation Monument from Lincoln Park in the District of Columbia. It is time we stop those who do not know our history, from removing it. Please sign our petition today! https://www.change.org/EmancipationMonumentDC
Everyone, of any culture, loves an old photo of their ancestors. Young or old, black or white, we all love them. We can stare at them trying to discern every last detail, and share them with anyone who will look at them too. We imagine their life and judge their success by the clothes they are wearing. We may even have stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Family historians display these finds, adding birth dates and death dates, and tales of who they were and what they did in their lifetimes.
They also love to photograph and share the finds of where that treasured ancestor is buried. That final monument, large or small, flat or tall, that captures an ancestors’ life in stone. Two dates with a dash in between, in a cemetery. Cemeteries are filled with the monuments of our ancestors. A sacred plot where we are all equal. Our descendants will work with whatever funds available to elevate us with works of art in granite or marble. This is where our family comes to pay their respects and share the stories. Sometimes, sadly cemeteries become forgotten and their stories are lost. It is said that as long as a name is said that person is not forgotten.
Monuments in our cities and parks are the same. While not marking the gravesite, they are a memorial to that person, their life and their deeds. They are proudly dedicated with words that share the story. Like that old photograph, they capture the life and the history. Sometimes the story gets forgotten, lost to the ravages of time. Because time marches on, and people change. What made that life special though does not change, but the times in which we live do. Many of us love to take that old photograph, or look at that monument, and recall how the world has changed since that moment. Winston Churchill said, “the further one can look back, then the further we can see forward.” If we destroy those opportunities to look back, I wonder how we can we ever know how much we have moved forward. Someday, we will want our grandchildren to look back on us with respect for our deeds. Let us teach them today, with good examples, of how to listen to the stories of the past with respect and not judgement. Someday we will all be stories of the past, that old photograph or that monument, that should never be forgotten.
When President Lincoln was assassinated because he had freed the slaves, Archer Alexander was definitely already worthy of the honor, to be portrayed by the great man’s side. Archer Alexander’s warning to the Union troops, about the efforts to sabotage a Union Army railroad bridge, saved hundreds of lives. He had worked to break his own chains of bondage and is rising to meet President Lincoln who is acknowledging this hero.
Charlotte Scott had a dream to honor President Abraham Lincoln “the best friend the colored people ever had”. This great monument was entirely funded by thousands of formerly enslaved people, freedmen, and soldiers of the United States Colored Troops. This was the beginning of the end of slavery. We believe it should remain as a testimony to how far America has come, and to honor the sacrifices of those that gave to see this monument made. This memorial to Lincoln should matter to all Americans, as we cannot erase its history. Let those that feel pain, learn the truth of its great history, and only use this monument to teach and inspire future generations, as its’ original creators in 1865 intended.
It is said that those that do not know their history, are doomed to repeat it. Let us all rise up, by learning the truth of our history. Our ancestors, fought side by side to put an end to slavery. There are those of us that are willing to stand side by side, to once again raise our voices and take a risk for something we all believe in. Its’ time to remember our true history. To save this monument will further acknowledge and lead to a better understanding of President Abraham Lincoln and Archer Alexander.