German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri
A special exhibit now on display at Deutschheim's Feldman-Stark House shares the many significant contributions of early Hermann residents in the fight against slavery.
The passionate anti-slavery beliefs of many German immigrants in Missouri originated in large part from their experiences as young, idealistic revolutionaries in their homeland. Having fought for Germany's freedom from Napoleonic rule and later unsuccessfully against the despotism of the German princes who had reneged on their promises of civil liberty, these men came to Missouri and other areas of the United States to escape oppression that prevented them from achieving their full potential as citizens: excessive taxation, prohibition of free speech, no voting rights, and few opportunities for land ownership. These revolutionaries were well-educated and outspoken, and their ideals developed out of a rich tradition of political theory, debate, and activism.
The United States appealed to these young Germans over other regions because of the American victory over British colonial rule. Possessing strong ideals about the significance of American freedom and democracy, many Germans were distraught by the fact that slavery was a legal and accepted practice in Missouri and the Southern states.
Several politically active immigrants who arrived in Missouri during the 1830s—Friedrich Münch, Eduard Mühl, Carl Strehly, and Arnold Krekel— were followed by a younger generation of exiles from the failed 1848 rebellions in Europe —Heinrich (Henry) Boernstein, Friedrich Hecker, Franz Sigel, and Carl Schurz—who became editors of or contributors to notable German-language newspapers in Missouri. Their articles and commentaries against slavery and in support of the newly formed Republican Party were crucial for Abraham Lincoln's election as president and in mobilizing German immigrants into Union volunteer units at the outbreak of the Civil War.
This exhibit previously was on display at the Saint Louis University Center for International Studies, Center for Global Citizenship, curated by Dr. Sydney Norton.