Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

Man vs. Man

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Man vs. Man exhibit section
Man vs. Man exhibit section

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The clash of ethnic, economic, social, and religious differences occurred up and down the Mississippi, and in the 1830s even led to the expulsion of the Mormons. But the primary issue that inflamed the entire nation was race, and river towns played an historic role.

As the Mississippi coursed its way from north to south, it passed from free to slave states. Northerners criticized slavery; Southerners believed it was none of the North's business. The admission of Missouri as a slave state in 1820 set the stage for conflict. Slaveholders' vs. slaves' rights was first argued in a St. Louis courthouse in 1846. And in Illinois in 1858, the famous debates on slavery that led to the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, also led to The Civil War.

Whoever controlled the Mississippi would likely win the war. After Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863, the Union ruled the waterway and two years later, ruled the nation.

But racial justice was merely a dream for former slaves and their descendants who suffered a century of legal segregation before Martin Luther King, Jr. awakened America. In 1968, King's life was cut short in Memphis, Tennessee, but the dream lives on.

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Did you know … ?
King's assassin was James Earl Ray who had been born in Alton, Illinois, where Lincoln and Douglas had debated slavery 110 years earlier.

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This section "Man vs. Man" has the following related pages:

Continue through exhibit

2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
You are here!Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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