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a Slave State of Missouri v. Celia: 1855

Celia Speaks

By Sunday, June 24, Newsom's family and neighbors had become concerned. They first questioned George, who quickly implicated Celia. (George afterward ran away.) Harry and David Newsom, Robert's sons, had come from their own homes to investigate; with Robert's neighbor William Powell, they demanded a confession from Celia. She at first denied any involvement. Then, afraid of Harry's and David's reactions, she told Powell she would confess if he would "send the two men out of the room." They left, and Celia told her story to Powell. Powell and the Newsom family then examined the fireplace, where Virginia located "buttons my sister [Mary] sewed on my father's breeches a few days before his death," and various splinters of bone. Newsom's larger bones were then recovered from the hiding space beneath the hearth.

On June 25, David Newsom delivered his affidavit to two local justices of the peace, D.M. Whyte and Isaac P. Howe. The affidavit stated that David Newsom "has cause to suspect and believe that one Negro woman named Celia a Slave of the said Robert Newsom did at the county aforesaid feloniously, willfully, and with malice aforethought with a club or some other weapon strike and mortally wound the said Robert Newsom, of which wound or wounds the said Robert Newsom instantly died." Celia was arrested and "deliver[ed] … forthwith to the keeper of the common jail of said County to await her trial."

Because white Calloway County residents were afraid Celia might have had help from another slave or slaves still at large, county Sheriff William T. Snell permitted two men, Thomas Shoatman and Jefferson Jones, to interrogate Celia. All of the above information about Celia's life on the Newsom farm comes from her interviews with William Powell, Jefferson Jones, and Thomas Shoatman. It does not come from Celia's trial testimony because she gave none. In the 19th century, blacks generally were not allowed to testify in criminal trials.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882a Slave State of Missouri v. Celia: 1855 - Celia Speaks, The Trial Begins, On To The Missouri Supreme Court, Suggestions For Further Reading