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a Slave State of Missouri v. Celia: 1855

On To The Missouri Supreme Court

Jameson appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. He asked for, and expected, a stay of execution until such time as that court ruled.

The court agreed to hear the case but refused a stay of execution. Some unidentified but presumably outraged Calloway County residents "kidnapped" Celia from jail just before her scheduled execution and returned her once the date had passed. Jameson wrote a personal letter to one of the three Missouri Supreme Court justices. Two of the justices sitting in 1855—Judge William Scott and John F. Ryland—had participated in issuing the infamous, proslavery Dred Scott decision, which would be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. Jameson wrote to the third justice, Judge Abiel Leonard, saying Judge Hall had "cut out all means of defense," begging for a stay of execution, and pleading with the justices to "please give the matter your earliest attention."

The Supreme Court rendered its decision on December 14, 1855:

Upon an examination of the record and proceedings of the Circuit Court of Calloway County in the above case, it is thought proper to refuse the prayer of the petitioner—there being seen upon inspection of the record aforesaid no probable cause for such appeal; nor so much doubt as to render it expedient to take the judgment of the Supreme Court thereon. It is thereby ordered by the Court, that an order for the stay of the execution in this case be refused.

Celia was interviewed by a Fulton Telegraph reporter on December 20. She said, "As soon as I struck him the Devil got into me, and I struck him with the stick until he was dead, and then rolled him in the fire and burnt him up." She was hanged on December 21, 1855.

Kathryn Cullen-DuPont

Suggestions for Further Reading

Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will. Men, women, and Rape. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South.Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

McLaurin, Melton A. Celia: A Slave: A true story of violence and retribution in antebellum Missouri.Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Sterling, Dorothy. We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: W.W. Norton& Co., 1984.

Additional topics

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