Author: Dorris Keeven-Franke

is an author, public historian, educator, and professional genealogist, who is working on a book about Archer Alexander.

Archer Alexander (d. December 8, 1880)

Archer Alexander was a formerly enslaved man who served as the model for the Emancipation Monument dedicated on the eleventh anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Alexander was born enslaved in Rockbridge County in the early nineteenth century. In 1829, Alexander’s enslaver, James Alexander, brought him to Missouri, where Alexander worked as an enslaved laborer, eventually being sold to members of the Pitman family. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Alexander alerted Union officials that Confederate sympathizers were hiding arms and ammunition in a local icehouse. Suspected as an informant, he was forced to flee to St. Louis, where he obtained an order of protection from the Union provost marshal. Alexander took a job with Unitarian minister William Greenleaf Eliot but was apprehended by slave catchers sent by his enslaver Richard Pitman. Alexander was eventually freed from the local jail and successfully testified against Pitman as disloyal to the Union. He was emancipated in September 1863 in recognition of his service to the Union and because of the disloyalty of his enslaver under the terms of the Confiscation Acts. When money was raised by formerly enslaved individuals to build an Emancipation Monument, Eliot became involved in the effort through his work with the Western Sanitary Commission. He provided the sculptor of the memorial, Thomas Ball, with a photograph of Alexander to be used as a model for the monument, which was intended to depict Alexander rising before Lincoln, having taken an active part in gaining his freedom, although interpretations of the memorial differ. Alexander died on December 8, 1880, and was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Normandy, Missouri.