#TBT: Mississippi River is Central in Early Statehood Racial Controversy
In 1860, two years after Minnesota became a state and a year before the Civil War would close the Mississippi as an avenue of regional transportation, the Eliza Winston case rocked the village of St. Anthony (now part of Minneapolis). Eliza Winston, an African-American slave, was brought north by her “owners,” a Mississippi family who had come north to escape the heat and humidity of the Southern summer. As detailed in this article in the invaluable online encyclopedia MNopedia, Eliza Winston connected with influential white and African American community members and sued for her freedom, since slavery was illegal in Minnesota. Although her suit was successful, she faced mob violence from members of the community who felt that interference with another person’s “property” was a violation of social order. Under the threat of pro-slavery violence, Eliza Winston was spirited away from where she had been staying with abolitionist sympathizers.
Although this is not a story of water management or the direct impact of the Mississippi River on the city’s material landscape, it nevertheless reiterates the many ways in which the river runs through our history, our stories, and our politics.