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African Americans in Washington, D.C.


Elizabeth Keckley left St. Louis in 1860 and moved to the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. She may have moved for personal reasons, or because she saw the Missouri legislature consider a bill that would reduce all free blacks aged 18 to 50 to slavery. Slavery was legal and practiced in Washington, but free African Americans had grown to outnumber slaves there. Within a few months, Keckley found white patrons who would help her gain the legal right to live and work in the city. She later recounted that she sewed dresses for Mrs. Robert E. Lee, wife of the army officer, and Mrs. Jefferson Davis, wife of the Senator from Mississippi who would soon become President of the Confederacy. She also made connections with the city's African American community. She joined the fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, pictured here.