African Americans in Monroe County  



Slavery & Monroe County

Monroe County lies in an area between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers that became known as Little Dixie from the Southern origins of most of the settlers. The southwestern part of Monroe County gained the nickname of Missouri's Bluegrass from its horse breeding. Missouri: A Guide to the "Show Me" State (NY: Hastings House, 1954 [1941]), 369.

Number of Slaves in Monroe County

Year Population Slaveholders Slave Free Blacks
1840 9,505   1,687  
1850 8,461   2,048 32
1860 7813 733 3,022 5

Monroe City Was Big Slaveholding Section

Missouri was the only slave holding state West of the Mississippi. This encouraged slave-owning emigrants from Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi to come to Missouri bringing with them their slaves.

There were many slaves in the state, approximately 115,000 were freed at the time of the emancipation.

The Monroe City area was a big slaveholding section of the state. In Monroe County alone, according to the 1860 census, there were 3,063 slaves compared to 11,722 whites. Going back to the 1840 census, the first after the county was organized there were 1,687 slaves, making up one-sixth of the population. In the 1850 census the number had increased to 2,048 out of a population of 10,541.

Monroe County tax record of 1860 shows that the more land a man owned the more slaves he owned. Farmers used more slaves because of their economic dependency upon slave labor. According to these records, D. W. Majors owned 2,254 acres of land and listed 34 slaves. He had the highest number of slaves listed for one man in the county. The same record shows property taxes were paid for 2,407 slaves, with the assessed value of $316,795. The high discrepancy between this tax record and the census suggest that either owners didnít report all their slaves or werenít taxed for babies or older slaves.

Slaves were valuable and they were traded, inherited, rented, sold privately, and at auctions. Dealers came from the south to make a profit in slave labor. They were generally disliked.

An 1840 Ralls County bill of sale (from Alma Lindhorst) shows that E. F. Bell, bought a Negro girl about the age of eleven the sum of $350.

The prices paid for slaves fluctuated. A 1936 Monroe County History Book states that some slaves were valued at $3,000. Ownership of slaves seem to have been a mark of greater wealth and higher social position.

Slave labor played an important role in the growth of the area. Their labor helped clear the land, plow the sod, plant and harvest the crop. They also helped build business houses, homes, barns, and fences. Slave labor was also used in mills, factories, lumbering, building railroads, river work and domestic work.

The Emancipation of slaves brought a need for a different kind of adjustment. Uneducated slaves were forced into the manual labor market. Most of them knew only farm work, but migrated into towns. Many found life difficult, the men never finding work and the women working as domestics.

Little Black History was written for the next 100 years and information was difficult to find.