Dr. Barbara Hahn
April 15, 2009
Celia, A Slave
The state of Missouri held a law against rape in the year of 1850. It prohibited
anyone from taking “any women unlawfully against her will and by force, menace or
duress, compel her to be defiled.” Missouri had another law that allowed slaves to fight
for their own lives, even if it meant they had to use deadly force against their “attacker”.
Neither of these two laws would be applied to Celia, a young slave girl in her defense
trial of the murder of Robert Newson.
The state of Missouri in 1855 was split down the middle between pro-slavery and
anti-slavery advocates. Missouri was a border state along with Kentucky that claimed
neutrality when the Civil War began. In a few years time the two would also secede along
with other soon to be confederate states such as South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida,
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
The nation was torn apart in the 1850’s by debates over continuing slavery in the south
and plans to use slaves in westward expansion territories.
The trial, verdict, and the final disposition of Celia’s case represented a perfect
example of the south’s view of certain issues such as; slavery, free labor, westward
expansion, and the future, which they wanted to obtain in their territories. Celia was held
responsible of murdering her master, Robert Newsom; a wealthy white male who owned