Southern Slaveholders in the North Star State
Author Christopher P. Lehman
Minnesota Historical Society Press (October 1, 2019)
A set of mutually beneficial relationships between southern slaveholders and Minnesotans kept the men and women whose labor generated the wealth enslaved.
From the 1840s through the end of the Civil War, leading Minnesotans invited slaveholders and their wealth into the free territory and free state of Minnesota, enriching the area’s communities and residents. Dozens of southern slaveholders and people raised in slaveholding families purchased land and backed Minnesota businesses. Slaveholders’ wealth was invested in some of the state’s most significant institutions and provided a financial foundation for several towns and counties. And the money generated by Minnesota investments flowed both ways, supporting some of the South’s largest plantations.
Minnesotans eagerly catered to this source of investment. Politicians and officeholders like Henry Sibley, Henry Rice, and Sylvanus Lowry worked for a slaveholder; the latter two recruited wealthy southern slaveholders to invest in property. Six hundred residents of the new state of Minnesota petitioned the legislature to make slavery legal for vacationing southerners who brought with them enslaved men and women “as body servants, for their comfort and convenience” while they escaped the summer heat of the South.
Through careful research in obscure records, censuses, newspapers, and archival collections, Christopher Lehman has brought to light this hidden history of northern complicity in building slaveholder wealth.
Also of interest:
"Black Cloud: The Struggle of St. Cloud's African American Community, 1880-1920" by Christopher P. Lehman in Minnesota History (Summer 2019)
"Slaveholder Investment in Territorial Minnesota" by Christopher P. Lehman in Minnesota History (Fall 2017)
"The Contemplation of Our Righteousness: Vigilante Acts against African Americans in Southwest Minnesota, 1903" by Christopher P. Lehman in Minnesota History (Fall 2015)
Christopher P. Lehman is a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University and the author of Slavery in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1787–1865: A History of Human Bondage in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Reviews and news
In the Media:
MPR interview with Tim Nelson
“Slavery’s Reach is a real eye-opener. Who knew that in the years before the Civil War, southerners invested funds derived from slave labor in real estate, banks, insurance companies, and other business enterprises in Minnesota, that they served as federal officials in this free territory, and that some brought their slaves with them (among them Dred Scott)? The book is a model of how local research can yield results of broad significance, among them that slavery was a truly national institution, not just a feature of the Old South.”
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
“The title of Professor Lehman’s book—Slavery’s Reach—aptly describes the many ways that slavery touched the free soil of Minnesota during the territorial period and the earliest years of statehood. Notably, it didn’t happen by the conquest of marauding Bushwackers seeking to kill freedom-loving settlers from the East, but by civic and business leaders in cash-starved Minnesota who welcomed slave-generated southern dollars to promote commerce and trade, invest in banks, and establish state institutions. This is an important addition to the canon of the racial history of Minnesota.”
William D. Green, author of A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota
“Christopher Lehman has written a revelatory book on slavery’s reach into Minnesota, long declared free territory by federal laws. This well-researched book illustrates the national political economy of slavery, whose tentacles reached far north until they were cut off by the Civil War and emancipation.”
Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition
Interviews with Christopher P. Lehman before the publication of Slavery's Reach:
- This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
- 240 pages
- 20 b/w photos, notes, index
- 6 x 9 inches
- ISBN: 9781681341354