Elijah Parish Lovejoy was an American newspaper editor and abolitionist who played a major role in the anti-slavery movement. He lost his life in November 1837, while protecting his press from a mob who were opposed to his anti-slavery editorial comments. In 1897, a monument was built in honor of Lovejoy, in Alton, Illinois.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born in November 1802, in Albion, Maine. He came to St. Louis as a school teacher in 1826. He was appointed as a Presbyterian minister in 1834.
Later, Lovejoy published a religious newspaper, the St. Louis Observer, and began to advocate the abolition of slavery.
In 1836, Lovejoy published a report of the lynching of an African American in St. Louis, and the consequent trial that acquitted the mob leaders. This report enraged some city occupants, and in July of the same year, his press was destroyed by a mob.
Lovejoy moved across the river to Alton, Illinois. There he established the Alton Observer as an abolitionist newspaper and actively supported the organization of the Anti-slavery Society of Illinois.
This angered some of Alton's citizens and they destroyed his three printing presses and threw them into the Mississippi River. Despite this, Lovejoy continued writing and published several reports against slavery.
In November 1837, a group of 25 admirers joined him at the Godfrey & Gilman warehouse to safeguard a new press, until it could be installed at the Observer.
When a pro-slavery mob gathered outside the warehouse, Alton’s mayor tried to persuade the protectors to vacate the premises. But they refused his proposal and the mob tried to set the warehouse on fire.
When Lovejoy tried to put out the fire, he lost his life by a shotgun blast. The remaining sympathizers were soon allowed to leave the warehouse, and the mob proceeded to demolish the printing press. The press was broken into pieces that were scattered in the river.
Lovejoy was buried on his 35th birthday, November 9, 1837, in an unmarked grave in Alton City Cemetery.
Plans for the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument began in 1850s, but the work was not started until the 1890s. The memorial is a 93-foot-tall granite tower, topped by a 17-foot-high winged statue of Victory.
The memorial also features two granite sentinel columns with 30-foot-high bronze eagles. The monument was dedicated on November 7, 1897, the 60th anniversary of Lovejoy's death.
After a renovation, the monument was rededicated in a ceremony in September 1969.