Slavery Continued: Peonage in Missouri
Klusmeyer, Jonathan A.
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Peonage is the holding of an individual based on a debt or an alleged debt. It was a tool used by southern whites both to control the labor of blacks and to relegate blacks to a lower social position. Although technically peonage was illegal following the passage of the Federal Peonage Act in 1867, by 1880 at least 10,000 African Americans found themselves in peonage in the South. In the state of Missouri, however, only one case could be found as being federally prosecuted in the state. The problem for study then became “Why was peonage limited in Missouri and how was it different from that in the rest of the South?” The methods used to research this question included archival research at the National Archives in Kansas City, reviewing of the U.S. Justice Department’s Peonage Files on microfilm, and the use of multiple secondary sources. After much research, it can be concluded that peonage in Missouri remained an oddity as conditions in the state had not allowed for the continuance of slavery under a new name.