Archer Alexander was born enslaved in Virginia, and in 1863 was the property of Richard Pitman, a slaveowner in Saint Charles County Missouri. Said to be the last fugitive slave, he had bravely risked his life to break his chains and gain his freedom. After overhearing a plot by area men who were Confederates sympathizers, Alexander, also known as Archey, informed the nearby Union troops of the events that were about to happen. Archey, was chased, shot, attacked and imprisoned in the St. Louis prison for his actions. Managing to survive he became “an emancipated slave by virtue of the Proclamation of the President of the United States made 1st January 1863, under the provisions of the Act of Congress of July 17, 1862 and for important services to the United States Military forces and for disloyalty of master” as announced in a St. Louis newspaper in September of 1863.
It would be nearly two more years until all of the enslaved people of this country would also be emancipated. Juneteenth is now a National holiday that acknowledges the emancipation of all of our country’s enslaved people. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was an Executive Order signed on September 22, 1862, which took effect on January 1st, 1863. With it Lincoln would declare that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were free! Missouri was one of four states with laws abiding slavery that were not included by Lincoln’s Proclamation and wouldn’t emancipate their enslaved until a Constitutional Amendment was signed on January 11, 1865.
It would not be until June 19, 1865 that those enslaved in Texas would even learn of Lincoln’s “Proclamation”. When Governor Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
It would not be until December 6, 1865 that the 13th Amendment would be ratified by Congress. On June 19, 1866 those formerly enslaved in Texas would be our Nation’s first to celebrate Lincoln’s proclamation. Ten years later, in 1876, with the help of the Western Sanitary Commission in St. Louis, Missouri, a memorial dedicated to President Lincoln, emblazoned with the word Emancipation, known as the Emancipation Monument, that was totally funded by the formerly enslaved in America would recall that moment. There, in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. Archer can be seen breaking his own chains, and rising before the man who issued that proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln. Over 600,000 heroic lives, both black and white, would be lost before bringing this country to that moment, a moment that should never to be forgotten.