Archer Alexander: Lincoln Group Member's Research Tells the Rest of His Story

By Wendy Swanson

Washington D.C.

Monday, September 20, 2021


Lincoln Group member Dorris Keeven-Franke will be the guest presenter at the September 28 Zoom meeting of the Civil War Round Table of DC. Her topic: Archer Alexander: Missouri’s Last Fugitive Slave.


Archer Alexander, pictured on the left, is a name forever connected to the Emancipation or Freedman’s Memorial in Washington’s Lincoln Park. Alexander, of course, served as the model for the statue of the newly freed former slave depicted in that monument. Attendees at the Lincoln Group’s January meeting will remember that Keeven-Franke described her research on Alexander during a discussion that evening on the memorial. She promises that there is much more to Alexander’s story than his monumental connection.


In 1863, Missouri was a border state that was a hotbed of hostility. A governor pro tem had been installed when elected officials fled the state because they could not achieve secession. Union troops had taken hold. Slave owners were neighbors to abolitionists. When Union troops received a tip that the area “secesh had planned to damage a local bridge and impact the troop supply line, suspicion fell on Archer Alexander as the informant.


Archer fled to St. Louis, where the fugitive was ta esteemed Unitarian minister and abolitionist William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington University. Eliot was also part of the Western Sanitary Commission, which oversaw the donations of the formerly enslaved for the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC. That monument features Archer, shown to be rising beneath Lincoln’s outstretched arm and breaking his own shackles. Historians have relied for years on Eliot’s Archer Alexander – From Slavery to Freedom for information on Alexander. However, Keeven-Franke’s research has uncovered other aspects of Alexander’s story, information she will be sharing during her presentation on the 28th.


Historian Dorris Keeven-Franke is the author of several books on Missouri history. She is a professional genealogist with over forty years of experience as well as a professional archivist who volunteers for local institutions. She has devoted years to researching Alexander’s story, delving into military records, depositions, and historical documents. Her research has taken her from Missouri to Virginia and finally to Washington, DC, uncovering documents in the National Archives. Keeven-Franke is working on her research with the family of Archer, who is also an ancestor of Muhammad Ali. She also works as a consultant on an International basis and is the Executive Director of Missouri Germans Consortium.


See the Round Table website for additional information about this program.