Slavery in Missouri

at Missouri State Museum

Peter Corn, Ste. Genevieve County, Mo.

“As I look back on it, people ought never to have been slaves. Dat was the low downest thing dat ever was… Slavery didn’t teach you nothin’ but how to work and if you didn’t work you back would tell it. Slavery taught you how to lie too… De conditions now of de colored people is of course better now cause dey is somebody. But every day dey is tryin’ to starve us out and give de white man a job. De do dat to keep us down.”

Perry McGee, Fayette, Mo.

“Dere ain’t but two classes of people, good and bad, and dey been tryin’ to separate de Black people from de white people but de line has already been cut.”

Delicia Patterson, Boonville, Mo.

“I think the time will soon be when people won’t be looked on as regards to whether you are Black or white, but all on the same equality. I may not live to see it but it is on the way. Many don’t believe it, but I know it.”

Rhody Holsell, Fredericktown, Mo.

“Slavery learnt me how to work and I wasn’t feared of no kind of work.”

Hannah Allen, Fredericktown, Mo.

“Some of the colored folks are better off today and some are worse. The young race says we who was slaves are ten times worse off than they cause we had bosses and couldn’t read or write… They say today that I don’t know nothing cause I was a slave and all I learned was what the marster told me. But I know enough to keep out of devilment… I say the young race has got all this to go by and they ought to be much better off than they are. We are better off in one sense than the young race cause about half of them don’t know how to raise their children and they don’t know how to do nothing. I think our folks have just as good a chance now as the white folks, but they don’t get cultivated.”

Robert Bryant, Caledonia, Mo.

“Slavery might a done de other fellow some good but I don’t think it ever done de colored people no good. Some of dem after freedom didn’t know how to go out and work for themselves. If dey would have freed de slaves and give dem a piece of ground I think dat would been a heap better den de way dey did.”

Fil Hancock, Rolla, Mo.

“You know it’s a funny thing, de white folks took everything from us niggers, even try to take our old songs and have dem on the radio.”

Mary Peters, Phelps County, Mo.

“Those white people in Missouri didn’t have many slaves. They just had four slaves – my mother, myself, another woman, and an old colored man called Uncle Joe.”

Bill Simms, Osceola, Mo.

“The masters aimed to keep their slaves in ignorance and the ignorant slaves were all in favor of the Rebel army, only the more intelligent were in favor of the Union army. When the war started, my master sent me to work for the Confederate army. I worked most of the time for three years off and on, hauling cannons, driving mules, hauling ammunition and provisions. When the Union Army came close enough I ran away from home and joined the Union Army. There I drove six-mule teams and worked at wagon work…until the war ended.”

Ann Stokes, Pemiscot County, Mo.

“I learnt my alphabet in de middle ob a field unnerneath a ‘simmon tree. My cousin teached me, you know we weren’t ‘lowed to hab books in dem days. They didn’t want us to know nothin’.”