This course uses examples of individuals in the Winona area to develop an overview of the history of Anti-Slavery and Black Rights activities in America before, during, and after the Civil War. The instructor will share the motivation, methodology and findings of her research on local abolitionists and (probable) Underground Railroad. Students will “meet” abolitionist Winona settlers who were antebellum activists, missionaries, politicians, soldiers in the U.S. Army Colored Troops, and people who volunteered after the war to work with the Freedmen’s Bureau, Freedmen’s aid societies and schools. We will also study the local political leaders, who during the 1857 constitutional convention, led the drive to include Article 1, Section 2, which prohibits involuntary slavery, into the Minnesota State Constitution. Winonans also shepherded Amendment 1 to the Minnesota Constitution, which gives the right to vote to black men over the age of 21 and U.S. citizens, which was passed by referendum in 1868. Through discussion and questions, students will reflect on how local history fits into, and expands, current understanding of abolitionist activity in Minnesota and America. Print and Internet resources will be recommended.
Carol Jefferson is a retired WSU Biology professor, a life-long history buff, and the Archivist of First Congregational Church of Winona. About 15 years ago, while reading church records, archived newspapers, and researching individuals, she discovered that this church was the preeminent anti-slavery church in Minnesota. Most of the people who joined this church in the 1850s were radical, activist abolitionists. They had assisted Freedmen and freedom-seeking slaves in many ways: providing education, land, tools and welfare assistance; and participating in in the Underground Railroad, abolitionist politics and anti-slavery societies. In 2014, she started investigating the likelihood that fugitive slaves, assisted by “Colored” and “White” settlers, moved through the area along several routes. To date, she has presented seven public lectures on her research, written five locally published papers for the general reader, been interviewed by journalists, and recorded for the Minnesota Historical Society’s Living History project. She has read hundreds of relevant books and papers, visited Underground Railroad sites, and studied materials in archives from across the country.
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