October 8, 1829 – the final entry

When Archer arrived in Dardenne Prairie in Saint Charles County on October 8th in 1829, he was 23 years old. Born in 1806, his parents Aleck and Chloe were the property of the Alexander family. He was owned by James Alexander of Rockbridge County, near Lexington, in Virginia. His wife Louisa, born as property of the McCluer family, and was part of the dowry of James’ wife Nancy. Together Archer and Louisa would have ten children, Ralph, Nellie, Wesley, Eliza, Mary Ann, Archer, Jim, Aleck, Lucinda, and John.

22 September 1829-Twenty-seventh entry

This is the journey of Archer, the enslaved property of James Alexander of Lexington, Virginia. Alexander is a member of a caravan of families moving from Rockbridge County, Virginia to Saint Charles County Missouri. If we listen closely to this journal of William Campbell, we might hear the voices of the enslaved… after all this is their story too. Archer Alexander is the face of freedom on the Emancipation Monument in Washington DC.

Freedom

“Now I’m free! I thank the good Lord that he has delivered me from all my troubles, and I’ve lived to see this.” Such were the words of Archer Alexander when he saw the photograph of himself on the Emancipation Monument, which was to be dedicated in 1876 by the great orator Frederick Douglass in Lincoln Park on the 11th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Totally paid for by the former enslaved people of America. The first such monument in Washington, D.C. and the first ever to feature Lincoln with the people he saw achieve their freedom. Our treasured right that we all celebrate today!

Eyes of the Time

It would take years, but in 1876, with the help of the Western Sanitary Commission, that monument would become a reality. That simple bronze monument, with two figures, a tall white man, and a black man rising on one knee, alongside him. The first ever to include a black person in our Nation’s Capital.

St. Louis

When Lincoln, a personal friend to Eliot, was assassinated, the formerly enslaved wanted a monument to Lincoln, and St. Louis’ former slave, Archer Alexander would be the one, to represent them, rising up and as Eliot says “breaking his own chains”.

A journey into the past

In an effort to trace Alexander’s early roots Keith Winstead and I will begin in Virginia. Join us as we take a journey along the same route, footstep by footstep, laid out in Campbell’s diary that brought these people to Missouri. Winstead, who shares the DNA of his cousin Muhammad Ali, has been researching his family for thirty years. We invite you to share in this journey of Discovery.

The Emancipation Memorial

When his friend William Greenleaf Eliot shared a photograph of the Emancipation Memorial with Archer Alexander, he emotionally exclaimed I’se free![i] The bronze monument features Alexander, an enslaved African-American on one knee and wearing a slave’s cuff and rising before President Abraham Lincoln. It was dedicated April 14th, 1876, marking the 11thAnniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The beautiful monument located in Lincoln Park was placed[ii]in direct view of the U.S. Capitol during America’s period of Reconstruction, and is the only Washington, D.C. monument featuring an African-American and funded entirely by America’s former enslaved themselves.

William Greenleaf Eliot

Within two years, he would take in a Fugitive Slave from St. Charles County, and under that law, could have been jailed himself. However, he would instead assist that slave in achieving that freedom, an act that he said President Lincoln himself (who was a personal friend) helped in.