Confession of Celia, A Slave

Celia, a Slave, had no last name.  She could not read.  She could not write. 

She was accused of murdering her "master" while defending herself against his repeated advances. 

Although Missouri law allowed a woman to defend herself against rape, the law was not evenly applied.  It was not applied at all to slaves who were considered the "property" of their masters.

Because she could not write, Celia signed her confession with an "X" near the bottom of the page.

Hereafter is the transcription of her Confession:

Celia, a slave, duly sworn, belonging to Robert Newsom says that she killed her master on the night of the 23rd day of June 1855 - about two hours after dark by striking him twice on the head with a stick, and then put his body on the fire and burnt it nearly up, then took up the ashes on the morning after daylight.  After breakfast, the bones were not entirely burnt up.  I took up the ashes and bones out of the fireplace in my cabin where I burnt the body and emptied them on the right hand side of the path leading from my cabin to the stable.

Sworn to + attested before us on this 25th day of June 1855
D. M. Whyte  J.P. [Justice of the Peace]

Celia                  X

We hereby certify that the foregoing is the testimony taken in the inquest held over the remains of Robert Newsom at his late residence in Callaway County on the 25th day of June 1855.

D.M. Whyte J.P.
Isaac P. Howe J.P.

Celia was tried in the Callaway County Courthouse in Fulton, Missouri.

Click on the image for a much-better view.


Media Credits

Image of signed Confession, by Celia, online courtesy University of Missouri at Kansas City ("Famous Trials" project).


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