Celia, A Slave Introduction-Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Melton A. McLaurin

Celia, A Slave

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Celia, A Slave Introduction-Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Introduction 

In the Introduction, McLaurin reminds us that although history tends to focus on the stories of “great men and women,” we can learn much from the “lives of lesser figures,” such as Celia, “a slave who lived and died in Callaway County, Missouri” (ix).  McLaurin also reflects on the limitations of such an approach to history, noting that the record of Celia’s life is, “like that of most lives judged inconsequential, produced” (x). 

Chapter 1 Summary: Beginnings 

Chapter One, called “Beginnings,” provides background knowledge about Robert Newsom, who was Celia’s owner, and John Jameson, her attorney, as well as about the town of Fulton, the county seat of Callaway County, Missouri.  Both Newsom and Jameson made their modest fortunes as early settlers to the young state of Missouri, Newsom emigrating from Virginia with his wife and two children between 1819 and 1822, and Jameson from Kentucky in 1825.  Newsom made his living as a farmer, and Jameson practiced law, served in the House of Representatives, and was later ordained as a minister. Both men were also slave owners, and the first chapter ends with the somewhat ominous statement: “Of the two men, however, only one was what he seemed” (13).

Chapter 2 Summary: The Crime 

Chapter Two provides an overview of the passage of the Missouri Compromise, which set the conditions upon which Missouri was allowed to become a state.  As McLaurin notes, “Missouri’s formal request for statehood in 1819 was to meet with unexpected resistance in Congress.  For the first time since ratification of the Constitution, members of Congress seriously debated forcing a territory to abandon slavery as the price for admission into the Union” (14).  There was fierce opposition in Missouri to the idea of outlawing slavery in the would-be state, leading to the compromise that became known was…

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